Maternal health is a vital concern for societies around the world. The care women receive before, during and after delivery is essential to their health and that of their children, families, and the communities to which they belong. Significant progress is being made to improve maternal health, but in recent years the rate of progress in many countries has considerably slowed or even regressed. Meanwhile, gaps in access to high-quality maternal health care are growing — not only between regions and countries but also within countries.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 800 women die each day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and countless others are affected by health problems experienced during pregnancy and after birth (known as maternal morbidity). In the United States — where a 2019 report found that over 60 percent of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable — the number of women dying from childbirth is increasing. Disparities in maternal mortality and morbidity along racial lines are also growing, driven in part by pervasive and longstanding inequities.
One project that emerged from our maternal health Forum (detailed below) is currently underway.
More information on the two projects from the Forum that are currently in development, Improving Maternal Health Among Adolescents and Reducing Maternal Mortality and Morbidity in New York City, will be posted soon.
On January 29, 2019 Columbia World Projects (CWP) invited experts from inside and outside Columbia University to a Forum designed to deepen our understanding of why it has proven so challenging to achieve global targets for maternal health and to identify promising projects that CWP could implement to substantially improve maternal health. In advance of the meeting, experts worked with CWP staff to develop nearly 20 project proposals, which we discussed and evaluated during the Forum.
Working Groups and Project Proposals
Forum participants were divided into five working groups organized by theme: mental health, racial and other unacceptable disparities, system approaches, environmental factors, and adolescent health and preterm birth. Subject matter experts were assigned to the groups based on their knowledge, background, and different views on the topic.
We asked each working group to evaluate several project proposals that had been developed in advance by participants and CWP staff, and to consider the strengths of each proposal.
Read more about the project proposals and the working group discussions in our Forum report.
Maternal Health Working Groups
- Mental health add
- Racial and other unacceptable disparities add
- Systems approaches add
- Environmental factors add
- Adolescent health add
Lee C. BollingerPresident, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Elaine AbramsSenior Director for Research, ICAP at Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Angela AinaCo-Director and Research Lead, Black Mamas Matter AllianceRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Erin AnastasiCoordinator, Campaign to End Fistula, UNFPATechnical Specialist, Sexual & Reproductive Health-Fistula, UNFPARead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Ann BlancVice President, Social and Behavioral Science Research, Population CouncilRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Jeanne Brooks-GunnColumbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Christa ChristakisExecutive Director, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District IIRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Mary D’AltonObstetrician and Gynecologist-in-Chief and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical CenterWillard C. Rappleye Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Mary D'Alton, MD specializes in high-risk Maternal-Fetal Medicine, with the majority of her practice focusing on patients with high-risk pregnancies due to complex maternal or fetal conditions.
Jamie Daw, PhDRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Findley focuses on community health, and specifically on promoting healthy communities and healthy children through multi-pronged intervention involving community health workers (CHW).
Lynn FreedmanProfessor, Population and Family Health, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Ira KatznelsonDeputy DirectorRuggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Nicholas LemannDirectorDirector, Columbia Global Reports; Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism; Dean Emeritus of the Faculty of JournalismRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Nicholas Lemann directs Columbia World Projects as well as Columbia Global Reports, a book publishing venture that commissions reporting around the world on a wide range of political...
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Rachel MoreskyAssociate Professor of Public Health, Heilbrunn Population and Family Health, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia UniversityAssociate Professor of Emergency Medicine, Emergency Medicine Department, Columbia College of Physicians and SurgeonsRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Maylott MulugetaHealth Manager, United Way of Greater AtlantaRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Kristin MyersAssociate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Myers area of expertise is in understanding the structural and material behavior of biological soft tissues with a specific focus on the female reproductive system and the biomechanics of pregnancy.
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Kenneth PrewittCarnegie Professor of Public Affairs, Columbia UniversitySpecial Advisor to the PresidentRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Virginia RauhProfessor and Vice Chair, Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Nicholas TatonettiHerbert Irving Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Kristen Underhill, JD, DPhilRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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Martha WelchDirector of the Nurture Science Program in Pediatrics, Columbia University Irving Medical CenterAssociate Professor of Psychiatry in Pediatrics and Pathology & Cell Biology, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Welch has been a pioneer in the treatment of mother-child relational health for over 40 years. Her decades of clinical observation have led to a new paradigm employing mother-child co-regulatory vs.