November 12, 2008

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as its newest Collaborating Center.

The center, established in the department’s home in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, will help the United Nations agency use the strongest and most comprehensive available research to promote and improve global reproductive health, said Herbert B. Peterson, MD, professor and chair of the maternal and child health department and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UNC School of Medicine.

“This is a classic win-win situation,” said Peterson, who will direct the new center. “We’re helping WHO achieve its global mission to promote cutting-edge reproductive polices, programs and practices, and it gives UNC the opportunity to lead the way in translating research into practice – which is one of the strengths of the Gillings School of Global Public Health.”

The department is currently working with WHO through a major grant to develop and implement evidence-based guidance for global family planning efforts. Department faculty members, assistant professors Kelly Culwell, MD, and Emily Jackson MD, are assigned to the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, to assist with these efforts.

The Global Breastfeeding Institute at Carolina, led by Miriam Labbok, MD, professor of the practice of public health in the department, will be part of the collaborating center, helping to discover and promote best practices for feeding infants worldwide.

Peterson said the center also will launch new activities to address issues in population and family planning related to international development goals and objectives, including environmental sustainability and elimination of poverty and hunger.

WHO Collaborating Centers have been established in various fields. Centers help develop common terms, technologies, methods, procedures and ways to collect data, which allows for better understanding and easier data comparison between international researchers.

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