Skip to main content

NIH Launches Maternal Health Research Centers of Excellence Program

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   August 18, 2023

12 healthcare organizations across the country will create a network to develop and test new programs aimed at tackling the nation's high maternal mortality rate.

Twelve healthcare organizations will be creating a network of federally funded research centers aimed at tackling the nation's high maternal mortality rate and promoting maternal health equity.

The health systems were selected by the National Institutes of Health to take part in the Maternal Health Centers of Excellence program, which includes $24 million in first-year funding and a seven-year budget of roughly $168 million. Ten will serve as research centers, while the 11th will serve as a data innovation and coordinating hub and the 12th will be an implementation science hub.

The program is part of the NIH's ongoing Implementing a Maternal Health and Pregnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) initiative, which was launched in 2019.

“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,” Diana W. Bianchi, MD, director of the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), said in a press release. “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.”

The new program crystallizes an ongoing national effort to curb health issues and deaths among expecting and new mothers and their infants, particularly in underserved populations. The nation saw more than 1,200 such deaths in 2021, or roughly 33 per 100,000 live births, a much higher number than many developed countries.

[See also: How to Use Technology to Make a Meaningful Connection.]

Several healthcare organizations have launched programs that use digital health and telehealth platforms to address maternal health. These platforms connect care teams to patients on demand at home, enabling those patients to connect with providers and access support and resources when and where they need the help. Some remote patient monitoring programs have also been launched to monitor at-risk mothers and their children during and after pregnancy.

The following health systems will participate as research centers:

  • Avera McKennan Hospital, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Maternal American-Indian Rural Community Health (MARCH), principal investigator Amy J. Elliott, PhD.
  • Columbia University, New York City, NY Community-Hospital-Academic Maternal Health Equity Partnerships (NY-CHAMP), principal investigator Uma Reddy, MD.
  • Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi, Delta Mississippi Center of Excellence in Maternal Health, principal investigator Mary D. Shaw, PhD.
  • Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Addressing Key Social-Structural Risk Factors for Racial Disparities in Maternal Morbidity in Southeastern Wisconsin (ASCEND WI), principal investigator Anna Palatnik, MD.
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Maternal Health Multilevel Intervention/s for Racial Equity (MIRACLE) Center, principal investigator Cristian Ioan Meghea, PhD.
  • Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Center to Advance Reproductive Justice and Behavioral Health among Black Pregnant/Postpartum Women and Birthing People (CORAL), principal investigator Natalie Dolores Hernandez, PhD.
  • Stanford University, Stanford, California, Stanford PRIHSM: Preventing Inequities in Hemorrhage-related Severe Maternal Morbidity, principal investigator Yasser Y. El-Sayed, MD.
  • Tulane University, New Orleans, Southern Center for Maternal Health Equity, principal investigator Emily Wheeler Harville, PhD.
  • University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Center for American Indian/Alaska Native Resilience, Culture, and Maternal Health Equity, principal investigator Karina M. Shreffler, PhD.
  • University of Utah, Salt Lake City, ELEVATE Center: Reduction of Maternal Morbidity from Substance Use Disorder in Utah, principal investigator Torri D. Metz, MD.

[See also: How Automated Care Helps Northwell Health Stay in Touch With Patients at Home.]

In addition, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore will serve as the hub for data innovation and coordination, with Andreea Creanga, MD, PhD, serving as principal investigator. And the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia will serve as the implementation science hub, under the direction of principal investigator Meghan Brooks Lane-Fall, MD.

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation at HealthLeaders.


12 health systems across the country will create a network to develop and test now programs aimed at tackling the nation's high mortality rate.

The maternal death rate peaked in 2021, with 1,200 deaths, or roughly 33 per every 100,000 live births, one of the highest rates among developed nations.

Several health systems have developed telehealth and digital health platforms to improve access to care for at-risk mothers and to better manage their care before and after childbirth.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.