Public health school to open first maternal, child health center in D.C.

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The center will be funded through a five-year, $1.75 million grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration, the release states.

The Milken Institute School of Public Health will soon debut the District’s first-ever center focused on maternal and child health, according to a public health school release Thursday.

The GW Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Education, Science, Practice and Policy will aim to increase research opportunities, establish community partnerships and improve education in the public health school related to child and maternal health, according to the release. Amita Vyas, the director of the maternal and child health program who will lead the center, said the program will train future practitioners, policy experts and scientists to address health disparities related to gender, race and socioeconomic status.

“The health of women, infants, children and adolescents is a significant indicator of the wellbeing and economic prosperity of nations, and yet across the United States, families and communities are facing adverse maternal and child health outcomes,” Vyas said in the release.

The center will be funded through a five-year, $1.75 million grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration, the release states. The District’s maternal mortality rate is twice the national average, and the region also struggles to combat high rates of infant mortality, unintended teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, according to the release.

Vyas said the COVID-19 pandemic has further revealed the “unique vulnerabilities” that women of color face with regard to maternal and reproductive health. Black women are three times more likely than White women to die of pregnancy-related causes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has truly brought to light the unique vulnerabilities women face, especially women of color,” Vyas said. “In becoming a Center of Excellence, we will transform our program and distinguish our school as a leader in preparing the next generation of leaders in this field to address gender, racial and economic disparities.”

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