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 ShanahanMeghan 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 awardOn 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

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]

 

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