NIH Establishes Maternal Health Research Center of Excellence

news release

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Efforts to support research to reduce pregnancy-related complications and deaths and promote equity in maternal health.

The National Institutes of Health provided $24 million in its first year of funding to establish the Maternal Health Research Center of Excellence. As part of NIH’s Maternal Health and Pregnancy Outcomes for All (IMPROVE) initiative, centers will reduce pregnancy-related complications and deaths and promote maternal health equity Develop and evaluate innovative approaches to The grant will run for seven years and total an estimated $168 million, until funding becomes available.

Compared to other high-income countries, the United States has a high maternal mortality rate, with more than 1,200 maternal deaths occurring in 2021, the most recent year for which data are available. Tens of thousands more Americans experience serious pregnancy-related complications each year, which can put them at increased risk for future health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental health conditions. There are clear disparities in the health status of these maternal women by race, ethnicity, age, education, socioeconomic status and geographic region.

“The magnitude and persistence of maternal health disparities in the United States highlight the need for research to promote health equity and identify evidence-based solutions to improve national outcomes. We do,” said NIH Director Diana W. Bianchi, M.D., Ph.D. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “Through collaboration with regional partners and others, the Maternal Health Research Center of Excellence will guide clinical care and generate important scientific evidence that will help reduce health disparities during and after pregnancy.”

The NICHD, the NIH Office of Women’s Health Research, and the National Institute of Nursing Research, with the involvement of several other divisions of the NIH, are jointly leading the IMPROVE initiative.

Centers of Excellence include 10 research centers, a data innovation and coordination hub, and an implementation science hub. Together, these institutions work to design and implement research projects to address the biological, behavioral, environmental, sociocultural, and structural factors that influence pregnancy-related complications and mortality. To go. They include racial and ethnic minorities, socio-economically disadvantaged persons, persons living in underserved rural areas, persons of sexual and sexual minorities, and persons with disabilities. Focus on people experiencing health disparities.

The research center partners with community collaborators such as state and local public health agencies, community health centers, and faith-based organizations. In addition, the research center will support the training and professional development of maternal health researchers, including researchers from underrepresented backgrounds in the biomedical research workforce.

Funding decisions for the Center were made after a competitive peer-review process. The following institutions, listed alphabetically with project names and contact principal investigators, will participate as research centers.

  • Abella McKennan Hospital, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
    Maternal American Indian Rural Community Health (MARCH)
    Principal Investigator: Dr. Amy J. Elliott
  • Columbia University, New York City
    New York State Community-Hospital-Academic Maternal Health Equity Partnership (NY-CHAMP)
    Principal Investigator: Yuma Reddy, MD
  • Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi
    Delta Mississippi Maternal and Child Health Center of Excellence
    Principal Investigator: Dr. Mary D. Shaw
  • Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
    Addressing the Major Socio-Structural Risk Factors of Racial Disparities in Maternal Morbidity in Southeast Wisconsin (ASCEND WI)
    Principal Investigator: Dr. Anna Palatnik
  • Michigan State University East Lansing
    Maternal and Child Health Multilevel Interventions for Racial Equality (MIRACLE) Center
    Principal Researcher: Dr. Christian Yoan Megia
  • Morehouse College of Medicine, Atlanta
    Center for Promoting Reproductive Justice and Behavioral Health for Black Pregnant/Postpartum Women and Childbearing People (CORAL)
    Principal Researcher: Dr. Natalie Dolores Hernandez
  • Stanford University, Stanford, CA
    Stanford PRIHSM: Preventing inequalities in severe bleeding-related maternal illness
    Principal Investigator: Yasser Y. El-Sayed, MD
  • Tulane University, New Orleans
    Nanbu Maternal and Child Health and Equity Center
    Principal Researcher: Dr. Emily Wheeler Harville
  • University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, Oklahoma City
    Center for Equity in American Indian/Alaska Native Resilience, Culture, and Maternal and Child Health
    Principal Investigator: Dr. Carina M. Schlöfler
  • University of Utah Salt Lake City
    ELEVATE Center: Reducing Maternal Morbidity from Substance Use Disorders in Utah
    Principal Investigator: Torri D. Metz, MD

Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University serves as a hub for data innovation and coordination. Led by her principal investigator, Andreea Creanga, M.D., the hub will support data collection, ensure high data quality, and provide data science expertise. The University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia serves as an implementing science hub. Under the direction of Principal Investigator Megan Brooks Lanefall, MD, the hub will help facilitate the integration of research findings and evidence into public health, clinical practice, and community settings.

regarding Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Child Health and Development (NICHD): NICHD leads research and training to understand human development, improve reproductive health, enhance the lives of children and adolescents, and optimize the capabilities of all. For more information, please visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):The national medical research agency, NIH, has 27 laboratories and centers and is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH…turning discovery into health®


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