NIH establishes centers to improve maternal health

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The Maternal Health Research Centers of Excellence will work to reduce maternal mortality in the United States, with a focus on populations which face disparities in health care.

NIH establishes centers to improve maternal health | Image Credit: © lordn - © lordn - stock.adobe.com.

NIH establishes centers to improve maternal health | Image Credit: © lordn - © lordn - stock.adobe.com.

The Maternal Health Research Centers of Excellence have been established, receiving $24 million in first-year funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The centers were established as part of the NIH’s Implementing a Maternal Health and Pregnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone initiative. The goal of the centers is to create new approaches to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality and support equity in maternal health.

Maternal mortality rates among high-income countries are highest in the United States. In 2021, there were over 1200 maternal deaths reported. Severe morbidity, including, diabetes, high blood pressure, and mental health conditions also present in tens of thousands of pregnant individuals in the United States per year. 

Severe disparities in maternal health outcomes also exist based on age, education, race and ethnic group, geographic region, and socioeconomic status. These issues will be addressed by the new centers, which are expected to receive $168 million in grants across 7 years.

“The magnitude and persistence of maternal health disparities in the United States underscore the need for research to identify evidence-based solutions to promote health equity and improve outcomes nationwide,” said Diana W. Bianchi, MD, director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

There will be 10 research centers included, comprising an implementation science hub and a data innovation and coordinating hub. These facilities will investigate how maternal morbidity and mortality are impacted by behavioral, biological, structural, environmental, and sociocultural factors.

Populations that face disparities in health will receive focus from the research centers. These include sexual and gender minorities, racial and ethnic minorities, people living in rural areas, people with disabilities, and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations. 

To help these populations, research centers will collaborate with community health centers, state and local public health agencies, and faith-based organizations. The centers will also support training for maternal health researchers, including those from populations which are not commonly seen in biomedical research.

“Through collaborations with community partners and others, the Maternal Health Research Centers of Excellence will generate critical scientific evidence to help guide clinical care and reduce health disparities during and after pregnancy,” Bianchi said.

Reference

NIH establishes Maternal Health Research Centers of Excellence. National Institutes of Health. August 17, 2023. Accessed August 17, 2023. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-establishes-maternal-health-research-centers-excellence

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