Palmquist co-authors commentary in The American Journal of Human Biology

Aunchalee Palmquist

Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist

Aunchalee Palmquist, PhD recently co-authored a new commentary published in The American Journal of Human Biology, titled “The COVID-19 liquid gold rush: Critical perspectives of human milk and SARS-CoV-2.” In the commentary, the authors discuss how clinical and laboratory‐based COVID‐19 studies are being used to cast suspicion on breastfeeding and the “quality” of human milk and the ethics of including pregnant and lactating people in clinical trials for COVID‐19 medicines and vaccines. Read the full commentary.


Cilenti, Verbiest to lead COVID-19 initiative for maternal care

Dr. Dorothy Cilenti

Dr. Dorothy Cilenti

Dr. Sarah Verbiest

Dr. Sarah Verbiest

Congratulations to associate professor Dorothy Cilenti, DrPH, and adjunct faculty member Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, for receiving a $4 million award from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. Dr. Cilenti and Dr. Verbiet will be leading a COVID-focused initiative to enhance remote maternity care for women and families of color, eliminate preventable maternal deaths and reduce severe maternal morbidity. They will be working with seven other partner organizations to ensure that women and families of color have access to equitable maternity care as COVID-19 continues to spread. Read the full article in the Gillings School news.


Daniels Releases Report About Autism Prevalence

Dr. Julie Daniels

Julie Daniels

Julie Daniels, PhD, has recently released a report in collaboration with the NC-ADDM and the CDC, which reveals how prevalence of autism detected in children ages 4 and 8 in the United States has increased in previous years. They found that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) detected in 8-year-olds in North Carolina was significantly higher than the national average, while prevalence detected in 4-year-olds in North Carolina was lower. These results are critical in helping researchers identify solutions that can improve access to early ASD diagnoses and treatments for N.C. children. While the rate of early evaluation and diagnosis in the state is an encouraging sign, the findings indicate more room for improvement in ensuring all children receive a developmental evaluation as soon as possible. Read the full report on the CDC website.


Ramaswamy Receives 2020 GIL Award

Rohit Ramaswamy

Rohit Ramaswamy

Congratulations to Rohit Ramaswamy, PhD, and his team for receiving a GIL Award for their COVID-19 related research project. Dr. Ramaswamy, the implementation lead, will be developing effective and sustainable strategies for promoting rapid, remote risk communication strategies for novel coronavirus COVID-19 and future public health emergencies, by leveraging the power of social connections within rural, Black faith communities.


Speizer Published in the Demography Journal

Ilene Speizer

Ilene Speizer

Ilene Speizer, PhD, in collaboration with others affiliated with the Carolina Population Center, recently published an article in the Demography Journal. This article evaluates the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded initiative designed to increase modern contraceptive use in select urban areas of Nigeria. Using a dynamic causal model, they find strong evidence of social multiplier effects through social learning. The results for social influence and spread through mass communications are promising. Read the complete evaluation on PubMed.


Stuebe Writes COVID-19 Commentary

Dr. Alison Stuebe

Alison Stuebe, MD

Alison Stuebe, MD, has recently written a commentary in the Breastfeeding Medicine Journal addressing the risks and benefits of temporary separation of mothers who are suspected or confirmed to be infected of COVID-19 and their newborns. She writes that while temporary separation does reduce the risk of transmission while immediately in the hospital, it creates a greater set of concerns that put the health and well-being of both mother and baby at risk in the long-term. “At the time of writing, we have no evidence to show that early separation improves outcomes,” Stuebe states in the commentary. Read more.


Palmquist Receives 2020 Teaching Excellence and Innovation Award

Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist

Aunchalee Palmquist, PhD

Assistant Professor Aunchalee Palmquist, PhD, is the 2020 recipient of the Teaching Excellence and Innovation Award! This award recognizes a faculty member “who inspires students, enhances their learning through creative, engaging and/or innovative teaching methods; and supports success in the classroom and growth as a student and public health professional.”


Sullivan Nominated for University Award

Catherine Sullivan

Catherine Sullivan, MPH

Congratulations to Catherine Sullivan, MPH, for being nominated for the University Award for the Advancement of Women. The awards, which were created in 2006, honor individuals who have mentored or supported women on campus, elevated the status of women or improved campus policies for them, promoted women’s recruitment and retention, or promoted professional development for women.


Barden-O’Fallon Published in PLOS-ONE Journal

Dr. Janine Barden-O’Fallon

Dr. Janine Barden-O’Fallon

Congratulations to Janine Barden-O’Fallon, PhD, for her recent publication in the PLOS-ONE Journal. The publication assessed the effect of providing revised injectable and HIV risk counseling messages on contraceptive knowledge and behavior during a three-month pilot intervention. The findings provide evidence that complex HIV counseling messages can be implemented in family planning programs in Tanzania, and potentially in other countries that are considering how to better integrate HIV risk messages into family planning counseling. Read more about the intervention here.


Dr. Siân Curtis

Dr. Siân Curtis

Curtis Nominated for Faculty Award

Congratulations to Siân Curtis, PhD, for being nominated for the Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring. This award was established by the Graduate School to recognize faculty who provide outstanding support and guidance to their doctoral students. Nominees have a successful record of advising students who have gone on to make significant contributions to their fields.


Stuebe Published in American Academy of Pediatrics

Dr. Alison Stuebe

Dr. Alison Stuebe

Congratulations to Alison Stuebe, MD, MCs, for her recent publication in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The publication addresses how even though breastfeeding has become more popular, more mothers today have complications that make breastfeeding difficult. These reasons can include rising rates of obesity, more first births among older mothers and more pregnancies that are the result of assisted fertility. Therefore, this publication provides guidance for health care practitioners to help mothers assess and manage exclusive breastfeeding during the first week of life. It does this by using an algorithm that is used to help clinicians recognize when infants have sub-optimal nutrition intake. It also helps determine whether mothers can provide their own expressed milk or if supplementation with donor human milk or infant formula is needed. Read more here.


Research from Two MCH Professors Published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal

Dr. Christine Tucker

Dr. Christine Tucker

Congratulations to Carolyn T. Halpern, PhD and Christine Tucker, PhD, for their recent publication in the Maternal and Child Health Journal. Their publication, found here, compares receipt of contraception and method effectiveness in the early postpartum period among women with and without a recent preterm birth (PTB).

Dr. Carolyn Halpern

Dr. Carolyn Halpern

They found that less than half of women with a live birth covered by Medicaid in North Carolina had a contraceptive claim within 90 days postpartum and that women who experienced PTD had lower odds of receiving contraception. Therefore, to optimize contraceptive use among women at risk for subsequent preterm birth, family planning strategies that are responsive to women’s priorities and context, including a history of preterm birth, are needed.


Research by Goldberg to featured on the American Psychological Association’s Article Spotlight

Dr. Shoshana Goldberg

Dr. Shoshana Goldberg

Research published by Shoshana Goldberg, PhD will be featured on American Psychological Association’s Article Spotlight. Her study examined the demographic characteristics and sexuality of queer-identified people using a U.S. nationally representative sample. “We find in this study that queer individuals make up a sizable proportion of sexual minorities, who are distinct in a number of
important ways from other sexual minority people, both in terms of demographic characteristics and sexuality, and across gender identity,” she says. Read more.


Palmquist featured in ASPPH Newsletter

Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist

Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist

Aunchalee Palmquist, PhD, IBCLC, lead author on a study published in Social Science & Medicine, was featured in the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health newsletter. It sought to understand mothers’ experiences with preterm birth and infant feeding in NICUs across the United States. The study’s results emphasized that when seeking to improve NICU care, it is necessary
to understand the lived experiences and idioms of distress that surround preterm birth and infant feeding in NICU settings. The findings also speak to a need for radical change in the structure of NICU care.


Saving mothers more effectively: With $13M, UNC faculty will build a national learning network to prevent deaths from pregnancy and childbirth

In the United States, mothers are dying. A recent America’s Health Rankings report listed the U.S. as having the highest maternal mortality rate in the world among developed countries.

Now, with a total of $13 million in funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), three faculty members in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health will implement the Supporting Maternal Health Innovation Program.

Dr. Alison Stuebe

Dr. Alison Stuebe

Dr. Sarah Verbiest

Dr. Sarah Verbiest

Dr. Dorothy Cilenti

Dr. Dorothy Cilenti

Dorothy Cilenti, DrPH, associate professor of maternal and child health; Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, adjunct faculty in maternal and child health and associate professor in UNC’s School of Social Work; and Alison Stuebe, MD, Distinguished Scholar in Infant and Young Child Feeding at the Gillings School and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UNC’s School of Medicine, will work to create a premier resource center that leverages existing expertise in maternal and child health systems to reduce maternal death and severe illness through innovative, evidence-based strategiesRead more.


Provider perspectives are vital to solving widespread absenteeism in Kenyan health care clinics

In some regions of sub-Saharan Africa, it’s fairly common for health care providers to be unexpectedly absent from clinical practice, which can negatively impact patient care.

Dr. Katherine Tumlinson

Dr. Katherine Tumlinson

A new study from Katherine Tumlinson, PhD, assistant professor of maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, shows that engaging Kenyan health care providers on their experiences and perspectives is key to addressing provider absenteeism. Tumlinson is the lead author of “Understanding healthcare provider absenteeism in Kenya: a qualitative analysis,” which was published online September 11 in BMC Health Services Research.

Tumlinson says it’s important to understand health system challenges from the perspective of health care providers themselves, because they are the ones on the front lines of service delivery. Read more.


Can a screening for social determinants of health effectively inform children’s health care?

A study by students and faculty at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health explored whether screening tools that examine social determinants of health in children can accurately identify early indicators of risk. Based on the researchers’ comprehensive review of existing literature, it remains unclear whether such screenings — which aim to consider risk factors outside traditional medical information — inform better care for children.

Dr. Meghan Shanahan

Dr. Meghan Shanahan

Dr. Anna Austin

Dr. Anna Austin

Dr. Rebeccah Sokol

Dr. Rebeccah Sokol

Rebeccah Sokol, PhD, and Anna Austin, PhD, who both received doctoral degrees from the Gillings School in 2019, are lead authors of “Screening Children for Social Determinants of Health: A Systematic Review,” which was published in the October 2019 issue of Pediatrics. The publication is a project of UNC’s Child Maltreatment Research and Practice Network, which was co-founded in 2017 by Sokol, Austin and Meghan Shanahan, PhD, assistant professor of maternal and child health at the Gillings School and faculty adviser for the group. Read more.


Palmquist co-authors breastfeeding brief for UNICEF on family-friendly work policies

A researcher from the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contributes to a new report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that calls on governments and businesses to invest in family-friendly policies such as paid leave, support for breastfeeding mothers, affordable childcare and the inclusion of child benefits.

The July 2019 report, “Family-Friendly Policies: A Policy Brief Redesigning the Workplace of the Future,” includes six evidence-based briefs on breastfeeding, business, child benefits, childcare and working families, paid parental leave and women’s economic empowerment to illustrate the important of family-friendly policies to early childhood development.

Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist

Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist

Aunchalee Palmquist, PhD, IBCLC, assistant professor of maternal and child health, co-authored the section titled, “Breastfeeding and Family-Friendly Policies: An evidence brief.”

“The report ties together the importance of breastfeeding in early childhood development and calls for greater investment of governments and businesses in family-friendly workplace policies that include support for breastfeeding,” says Palmquist. Read more.


FDA approves breakthrough drug to treat Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

In August, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its approval of pretomanid, a new drug developed to treat Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB) and treatment intolerant/non-responsive Multidrug-Resistant (MDR) TB.

Dr. Doris Rouse

Dr. Doris Rouse

RTI International (RTI) scientist and Gillings School of Global Public Health adjunct professor Doris Rouse, PhD, and her team have collaborated closely with the TB Alliance on the development of pretomanid for almost 20 years. TB Alliance is a nonprofit product development partnership that RTI and Rouse helped to form in 2000, which has now negotiated license agreements enabling an affordable cost of pretomanid in low resource countries.

“We are seeing an increase in XDR-TB, and we need new weapons to attack it,” Rouse says. “I’ve been in wards with patients who are so emaciated, they won’t eat anything, they have fevers, they can’t sleep. But with pretomanid, in a regimen that includes two other drugs, bedaquiline and linezolid, we see improvement within a few weeks. This new treatment will help people who have no other good option for a cure.” Read more.


Sharing breast milk is increasingly common, but its impact on infant nutrition is understudied

Though many families worldwide turn to various methods of human milk exchange to feed and nourish their infants, researchers have done little to explore the impact of sharing breast milk on infant health outcomes and malnutrition, according to a paper led by faculty at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist

Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist

This important finding from the first-ever review of scholarly literature on human milk exchange offers the ‘state-of-the-science’ on human milk exchange to improve patient education and parents’ informed decision making, as well as important areas for further research on the topic. Human milk exchange includes human milk banking, human milk sharing and emerging markets in which human milk may be purchased or sold.

Aunchalee Palmquist, PhD, IBCLC, assistant professor of maternal and child health at the Gillings School, is lead author of “Current Trends in Research on Human Milk Exchange for Infant Feeding,” which was published online June 17 by the Journal of Human Lactation. Palmquist also is a member of the Gillings School’s Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute. Read more.


Singh Ongechi awarded Hettleman Prize for supporting mothers and children around the globe

Dr. Kavita Ongechi

Dr. Kavita Ongechi

Kavita Singh Ongechi, PhD, associate professor of maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been awarded the University’s Philip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty.

She will be recognized at the Sept. 13 meeting of the UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Council for her innovative research and contributions to the improvement of the health and well-being of mothers and children globally. The award is one of the University’s most prestigious acknowledgments of faculty excellence. Read more.


Gillings School redoubles efforts on implementation science and HIV in South Africa

What connects South Africa, the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, and public health teaching and research?

Two words: Implementation science.

It’s a hard term to pin down — ask five experts and you might get five different definitions — but implementation science is, at its core, the study of how to implement research findings on effective interventions into routine health care and public health practice. In other words, it’s about closing the gap between knowing and doing, between when discoveries that would benefit people’s health are made and when they are put into wide practice.

Dr. Rohit Ramaswamy

Dr. Rohit Ramaswamy

At the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, more than 100 faculty and researchers work in implementation science. Since 2014, two researchers in particular have collaborated with faculty at the University of the Witwatersrand (known as Wits) to create the first implementation science degree program in South Africa.

The project, led by Audrey Pettifor, PhD, professor of epidemiology, and Rohit Ramaswamy, PhD, dual professor of maternal and child health and public health leadership, is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center. To date, Pettifor and Ramaswamy, in collaboration with their co-primary investigator Tobias Chirwa, PhD, head of the School of Public Health at Wits, have successfully founded the degree program and guided three cohorts through to graduation. Read more.


New awards from The Duke Endowment to Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute will support breastfeeding across the Carolinas

Catherine Sullivan

Catherine Sullivan

ENRICH Carolinas, a project that supports hospitals in improving maternity care practices for mothers and babies, will be expanded across North and South Carolina thanks to awards from The Duke Endowment totaling $5 million. Run by the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (CGBI) housed in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, ENRICH Carolinas provides technical assistance and training for hospitals, prenatal clinics and childcare facilities on how to create a friendlier and safer environment for all infants that supports breastfeeding.

The funding will allow the project, now in 19 counties, to expand and include support for all hospitals that provide maternity care at no cost to the facility, resulting in lifelong improved health for babies and their mothers for generations to come. This expansion will ensure that no matter where a family delivers in the Carolinas, they will get the quality care that supports optimal health outcomes for the birthing parent and their baby in an environment that enables breastfeeding, with a focus on informed decision-making and respect for parental choice. Read more.


Peterson inducted as Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Dr. Bert Peterson

Dr. Bert Peterson

Herbert Peterson, MD, FACOG, William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, was inducted June 15 as a Fellow Honoris Causa of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). The ceremony took place at the RCOG headquarters in London. Read more.


Meghan Shanahan, PhD receives 2019 provost’s engaged scholarship award

Dr. Meghan Shanahan

Dr. Shoshana Goldberg

Meghan Shanahan, PhD, assistant professor of maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been selected for a 2019 Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award for Engaged Research.

The award recognizes UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members who have performed extraordinary public service and engaged scholarship and/or enabled such service by others.

Shanahan, who also is a research scientist at the UNC Injury Prevention Center, was recognized for public health research that promotes child, family and population well-being in North Carolina, in collaboration with partner agencies from across the state.

Shanahan was nominated for the award by doctoral student Anna Austin, MPH, who studies maternal and child health at the Gillings School. [read more]


Assistant Professor, Catherine Sullivan, wins teaching innovation award

On March 25, awards for innovative teaching were presented (l-r) to Dr. Seema Agrawal, Dr. Alexandra Lightfoot, Dr. Benjamin Mason Meier; Dr. Alyssa Mansfield Damon, Dr. Karin B. Yeatts, Dr. Dana Rice, Catherine Sullivan and Dr. Feng-Chang Lin. Not pictured: Dr. Mark Serre

Innovative Teaching Award Winners

Students at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health voted earlier this month to select the School’s most innovative classroom teachers. The winners were announced March 25 at the eighth annual Teaching Innovation Awards ceremony. The 2019 ‘Celebrate Teaching!’ awardees are Seema Agrawal, EdD, clinical assistant professor of nutrition; Alexandra Lightfoot, EdD, assistant professor of health behavior and director of the Community Engagement, Partnerships and Technical Assistance Core at the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention; Benjamin Mason Meier, JD, PhD, associate professor of public policy and adjunct associate professor of health policy and management; Alyssa Mansfield Damon, PhD, assistant professor of health policy and management; Karin B. Yeatts, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology; Dana Rice, DrPH, assistant professor of public health leadership; Catherine Sullivan, MPH, assistant professor of maternal and child health and director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Initiative; Feng-Chang Lin, PhD, associate professor of biostatistics; and Marc Serre, PhD, associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering and director of UNC’s Bayesian Maximum Entropy Lab. [read more]