October 17, 2019

Dr. Kristin Tully

Dr. Kristin Tully

Dr. Alison Stuebe

Dr. Alison Stuebe

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, including the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Alison Stuebe, MD, and  Kristin Tully, PhD, in collaboration with partners at North Carolina State University and The Ohio State University, have received a $2.5 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality at the United States Department of Health and Human Services to improve health care services for new families after childbirth and during the transition home.

The goal of the four-year project, ‘Re-engineering Postnatal Unit Care and the Transition Home to Reduce Perinatal Morbidity and Mortality,’ is to identify and define key unmet needs on postnatal units that contribute to poor maternal and infant outcomes and to create recommendations for more effective mother-infant ‘dyadic’ management to improve safety and wellness.

Childbirth is the most common reason for hospitalization the United States, with more than 3.8 million women and their infants discharged from postnatal care each year. The project will enable a stronger start for mothers and their infants, as well as offering a more integrated, value-based model for care that can be shared across hospitals for widespread implementation.

Attention to postpartum maternal health is critical because more than half of pregnancy-related deaths occur after the day of birth, Stuebe says.

“Our goal is to ensure that all families are seen and heard in the days following birth,” says the Distinguished Professor of Infant and Young Child Feeding at the Gillings School, who also is a professor of maternal-fetal medicine in UNC’s School of Medicine. “I am thrilled to collaborate with this incredible team to ensure that moms and babies are safely supported in their transition home from maternity care.”

The postpartum unit of North Carolina Women’s Hospital at UNC will serve as an interdisciplinary ‘Patient-Safety Learning Laboratory’ for principal investigators Stuebe and Tully, along with principal investigator Emily Patterson, PhD, at Ohio State’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences in the College of Medicine, and co-investigators Carolina Gill, MS, and Kelly Umstead, MS, both faculty at N.C. State’s College of Design. Additional collaborators include faculty and staff across UNC Health Care and the UNC Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Social Work, and Information and Library Science, as well as expert consultants in maternity health equity, advocacy and clinical care.

The project’s primary goal is to reduce emergency department visits and hospital readmission up to 90 days postpartum for mothers and infants. This will serve as a benchmark for improving patient safety and care value in three intersecting domains: Mother/Baby Recovery, Precision Clinical Care and Care Transition from Hospital to Home.

“This opportunity for real change is humbling and one we will fully leverage to transform maternity care,” says Tully, a research associate in the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute at the Gillings School. “By integrating a variety of stakeholder perspectives and thoughtfully developing and testing new tools, we will better equip maternity care professionals to serve and contribute to families being and feeling safe and respected.”

Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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