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
Participant biographies are current as of January 29, 2019
Lee C. BollingerPresident, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Lee C. Bollinger became Columbia University’s nineteenth president in 2002. Under his leadership, Columbia stands again at the very top rank of great research universities, distinguished...
Elaine AbramsSenior Director for Research, ICAP at Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
An internationally recognized expert and clinician, Dr. Elaine Abrams has over 30 years of experience in comprehensive care and treatment for HIV-infected pregnant women, children and their families.
Angela AinaCo-Director and Research Lead, Black Mamas Matter AllianceRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Angela Doyinsola Aina, MPH is the Co-Director and Research Lead for the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. Aina has over 14 years of public health experience, working in different capacities...
Heidi L. Allen, MSW, PhDColumbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Heidi L. Allen, MSW, PhD is an Associate Professor at Columbia University’s School of Social Work, and is a nationally recognized expert on Medicaid policy.
Michael Leslie AmilcarCEO, Cook Ross Inc.Read Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Michael Leslie Amilcar is the CEO of Cook Ross Inc., a consulting firm based in Silver Spring, Maryland specializing in diversity, inclusion, leadership development, and organizational change management.
Erin AnastasiCoordinator, Campaign to End Fistula, UNFPATechnical Specialist, Sexual & Reproductive Health-Fistula, UNFPARead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Erin Anastasi’s extensive career in maternal/newborn health and human rights spans projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the United States. She rose from Technical Specialist...
Ann BlancVice President, Social and Behavioral Science Research, Population CouncilRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Ann Blanc, PhD is Vice President of Social and Behavioral Science Research at the Population Council. Under her leadership the Population Council is increasing investments into rigorous...
Jeanne Brooks-GunnColumbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Biography current as of January 29, 2019
Sara CaseyDirector, RAISE InitiativeAssistant Professor, Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Dr. Sara Casey, Assistant Professor, focuses on using sound data collection and analysis to improve the availability and quality of sexual and reproductive health services in countries...
Christa ChristakisExecutive Director, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District IIRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Christa Christakis is the Executive Director of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District II, a non-profit organization representing board certified physicians...
Cathryn ChristensenClinical Partnerships Director, Village Health WorksRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Cathryn Christensen is a family physician and the Clinical Partnerships Director of Village Health Works in Burundi. Christensen’s clinical and public health work focuses on community-based...
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, PhDColumbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Jamie Daw, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She is a quantitative health services researcher whose...
Mary Ann EtiebetLead and Executive Director, Merck for MothersRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Etiebet has two decades of experience improving healthcare outcomes for vulnerable populations and transforming healthcare delivery at the frontlines. As the Lead and Executive Director...
Sally FindleyProfessor, Population and Family Health and Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
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
Freedman directs the Mailman School’s Averting Maternal Death and Disability (AMDD) Program, a global program of research, policy analysis, and technical support that, since 1999, has...
Avril D. HainesFormer Deputy DirectorRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Avril Haines was the Deputy Director of Columbia World Projects from 2017-2020. She now serves as director of national intelligence in the Biden administration.
Ira HillmanParenting and Early Childhood, Einhorn Family Charitable TrustRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Ira Hillman leads the parenting and early childhood portfolio for the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust (EFCT), whose mission is to help people get along better.
Ira KatznelsonDeputy Director for Research & EngagementRuggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Ira Katznelson is Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia University. His 2013 book, "Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time," received the Bancroft...
Nicholas LemannFormer DirectorJoseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism; Dean Emeritus of the Faculty of Journalism; Director, Columbia Global ReportsRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Nicholas Lemann was the director of Columbia World Projects from 2017 through February 2021. He directs Columbia Global Reports, a book publishing venture that commissions reporting...
Catherine MonkProfessor of Medical Psychology in the Departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Psychiatry, Columbia UniversityDirector of Research at the Women’s Program and Co-Director of the Domestic Violence Initiative, Columbia University Medical Center; Research Scientist VI at the New York State Psychiatric InstituteRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Originally trained as a clinical psychologist, in 2000 Monk completed her postdoctoral research studies in the Psychobiological Sciences at Columbia University via a National Institutes...
Renee MontagneSpecial Correspondent and Host, NPR NewsRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
After 13 years as cohost of the flagship news magazine "Morning Edition," Montagne joined NPR's Investigative Unit to collaborate with ProPublica reporter Nina Martin on the investigative series, "Lost Mothers.
Allisyn MoranScientist at the World Health Organization (WHO) Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child, and Adolescent Health (MCA) on the Epidemiology, Monitoring and Evaluation team in Geneva, SwitzerlandRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Moran is working on measurement, monitoring, and evaluation of maternal and newborn health. She has over twenty years of experience in applied and operations research, program monitoring...
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
Over the past 20 years, Moresky has collaborated with governments and local institutions to improve emergency care systems in resource-limited settings through technical assistance, implementation...
Maylott MulugetaHealth Manager, United Way of Greater AtlantaRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Mulugeta was born and raised in metro Atlanta and grew up in a large immigrant family. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Science degree...
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.
Herminia PalacioDeputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, City of New YorkRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Appointed Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services in January 2016, Palacio is in charge of coordinating transformation efforts across the City’s public health and healthcare system...
Kenneth PrewittCarnegie Professor of Public Affairs, Columbia UniversitySpecial Advisor to the PresidentRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Kenneth Prewitt is the Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs at Columbia University. He taught Political Science at the University of Chicago from 1965–1982, and for shorter stints was...
Virginia RauhProfessor and Vice Chair, Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Rauh is a developmental epidemiologist (Harvard School of Public Health, ScD) and social worker (Smith College School for Social Work, MSW) by training, whose work focuses on the long-term...
John SchaefflerExecutive Global Government Relations Leader, General Electric/GE HealthcareRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Prior to joining GE Healthcare in 2004, Schaeffler served as Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs for the American Health Care Association, and as Senior Vice President for DaVita.
Nicholas TatonettiHerbert Irving Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Columbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Tatonetti trained in mathematics and molecular biology at Arizona State University before receiving his PhD in biomedical informatics in 2012 from Stanford University.
Kristen Underhill, JD, DPhilCornell UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Kristen Underhill, JD, DPhil is an Associate Professor of Law at Cornell Law School. Her expertise is in both law and public health, including legal research, survey methods, and qualitative data collection.
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.