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

October 8, 2019

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 strategies.

“We will establish a nationally prominent resource center that will offer training, technical assistance and capacity-building to states. This will accelerate the translation of knowledge to practice in order to improve maternal health outcomes and decrease disparities,” says Cilenti. “We will build upon the existing National Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development Center and the UNC Center for Maternal and Infant Health to provide training, collaborative learning, coaching and consultation to states, which will be tailored to each state’s context.”

With $2.6 million per year for a five-year period (beginning September 30, 2019), Cilenti (primary investigator) and Verbiest and Stuebe (co-primary investigators) will provide capacity building assistance to HRSA’s many maternal health grantees and other stakeholders, who are part of a collaborative effort to address disparities in maternal health and improve maternal health outcomes across the country.

“We are pleased to see new investments in the health and well-being of women and mothers at the national level,” says Verbiest. “Maternal mortality and morbidity is a complex issue that impacts communities of color at high rates. Creating change will require an equity lens and working across sectors and disciplines.”


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

Recent News