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Making Cord Blood Banking More Accessible to Gen Z Parents

Duben 2023
Kathryn Cross


Anja Health’s namesake is my brother, Andrew. When I was three and my brother was one, he was in a near-drowning accident that transformed his life: he was diagnosed with extremely low-functioning cerebral palsy - physicians even went so far as to deem him a “vegetable”. After my brother was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, my family began searching for treatments to help him. We found hope in umbilical cord blood - specifically the clinical trials led by Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg at Duke University, which found that children were gaining motor and social skill improvements after receiving their own cord blood. However, unfortunately, my parents had not saved my brother’s cord blood, and we couldn't find a matching donor for my brother on the public registry. Being half-Asian and half-white, the odds of finding a match were stacked against us - as they are for most children of color.

Be The Match probability of finding a donor, for adult bone marrow or pediatric cord bloodWe had always hoped that someday Andrew could be a patient in a cord blood study for cerebral palsy, but he eventually aged out of being eligible for the treatment and he passed away at 19. This inspired me to found Anja Health, a company that aims to make cord blood banking more accessible for the latest generation of parents.

Those of us who were born between 1996 and 2010 are called “Gen Z” and we grew up as digital natives. Our lives have been shaped by climate anxiety and financial pressures, and we have our own perspective on life’s priorities. As a Gen Z CEO, I recognize that the consumer base for cord blood banking is shifting towards my generation as more of us begin to start families. Gen Z’s growing interest in best pregnancy, birth, and parenting practices can be seen in the August 2021 TikTok trend around gentle parenting, which now has 3.5B+ views on the app. The gentle parenting style reacts against authoritative parenting and embraces more positive communication and mutual respect with children. Gentle parenting appeals to Gen Z’s values of empathy and social justice. This is one example of how today’s young parents have different attitudes and approaches towards what is best for their child.

Cord blood banking is one way that Gen Z parents may invest in their child’s health, storing potentially life-saving stem cells for their child and family. This proactive approach to healthcare aligns with Gen Z values of social responsibility and taking action to create a better future. In addition, Gen Z has the potential to be more informed about cord blood banking because of their increased access to information via digital channels. Anja Health sees the importance of delivering health information in a way that is both informative and easily digestible, especially as more parents turn to social media for guidance on important decisions for their families. It is also important to recognize the unique challenges and pressures faced by Gen Z parents. Many of them are burdened by student loan debt and a competitive job market, which can impact their ability to provide financially for their families. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty and stress around starting a family. Connecting with parents in a meaningful way that allows them to feel empowered when it comes to any birth-related decision - even outside of cord blood banking - is one of Anja Health’s missions.

Kathryn Cross of Anja HealthAt Anja Health, we offer a cord blood banking kit for three different types of stem cells: hematopoietic stem cells found in cord blood, mesenchymal stem cells found in cord tissue, and amniotic epithelial cells found in the placenta. Each of these stem cells has unique potential applications in medical treatment, ranging from blood-related conditions to organ and tissue-related problems. What sets Anja Health apart from other cord blood banks is our ability to store placenta stem cells, our manual processing methods, and our commitment to clear communication and accessibility. Anja Health is committed to making the process of cryopreserving these stem cells as easy and accessible as possible. Our payment plans are spread out as small monthly payments that are affordable and accessible for new parents. As someone who experienced firsthand the difficulty of finding a match for my brother, I am passionate about ensuring that all families have access to life-saving treatments.

As a Gen Z CEO, I am proud to be leading the charge in making cord blood banking relevant to a new generation of parents. Our commitment to better births, inclusivity, and innovative services makes Anja Health an excellent choice for families who are considering cryopreserving their baby's stem cells.

Kathryn Cross is the founder of Anja Health, a family cord blood bank that offers storage of umbilical cord blood, cord tissue, and placenta. Anja Health partners with the highly accredited laboratory of Vitalant New Jersey. Kathryn is a 2020 graduate of Wellesley University and brings a Gen Z perspective to her interactions with expecting parents. She has carved out a unique niche by focusing her marketing efforts on TikTok as @kathrynanja.