Building on its 173-year history of advancing medicine, science and public health, The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) has announced its convening of NYC and national experts to advance research and policy change for maternal and child health equity. NYAM recently launched a 13-member Women’s Health Research & Well-being Workgroup, and on January 12, 2021 will host a virtual Maternal and Child Health Equity Summit in partnership with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology.   

NYAM tackles the barriers that prevent every individual from living a healthy life and generates the knowledge needed to change the systems that prevent people from accessing what they need to be healthy such as safe and affordable housing, healthy food, healthcare, and more. “A critical element to achieving health equity begins with improving maternal health outcomes and eliminating the unacceptable inequities that persist for women of color,” said NYAM President Judith A. Salerno, MD, MS. “NYAM will leverage our longstanding role as a convener of cross-institution discourse, collaboration and action to advance policy and systems change to improve the health of mothers everywhere.”

The Women’s Health Research & Well-being Workgroup and Maternal and Child Health Equity Summit will both bring together a broad and diverse group of experts from across the U.S. to support the dissemination of innovative research and advocate for fundamental policy changes at the state and federal level to achieve high-quality, equitable care for women and children. Another goal is to affect policies that support increased funding for maternal and child health research at the federal and state level.

The workgroup and summit are co-chaired by Danielle Laraque-Arena, MD, FAAP, Senior Scholar-in-Residence at NYAM and President Emerita of SUNY Upstate Medical University, and Elizabeth A. Howell, MD, MPP, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and former director of the Blavatnik Family Women’s Health Research Institute at Mount Sinai. Dr. Laraque-Arena previously co-chaired the New York State Governor’s Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Disparate Racial Outcomes (2018-2019). 

“Our attention on maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity in Black, Brown and Indigenous birthing people and the adverse outcomes for their infants must be a city, state and national priority driven by the science that explicates and resolves inequities and tackles the root causes of these disparate outcomes and eventually eliminates adverse pregnancy-related outcomes for all women,” said Dr. Laraque-Arena.

Dr. Howell is the principal investigator for recent quantitative and qualitative NIH-funded research on the contribution of quality of care to racial and ethnic disparities in severe maternal morbidity and in very preterm birth/very low birth weight morbidity and mortality, which will be disseminated at the summit on January 12.

“We are very excited to share our research findings and foster a robust discussion about quality of care and the experiences of Black and Brown pregnant people in New York City and beyond,” said Dr. Howell. “We hope our discussion will lead to actionable steps to address the unacceptably high rates of maternal and infant morbidity and mortality among people of color.”

The half-day event will also feature presentations, panels, and robust conversations with leading New York City and national health experts on maternal health, infant health, and the mom-baby dyad. Presenters include Karen Scott, MD, MPH, University of California San Francisco; Jeffrey D. Horbar, MD, Vermont Oxford Network; and Jennifer Zeitlin, DSc, French National Institute of Health and Medical Research.

Following the summit, the interdisciplinary group consisting of workgroup members and planners of the summit will partner to develop an action agenda with a health policy focus toward reducing maternal mortality, severe maternal morbidity, and infant mortality and morbidity in Black, Brown and Indigenous birthing people. 

In addition, the workgroup will apply a systems approach to improving care in three areas: maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity, maternal-child health outcomes, and lifecourse issues in women’s health. The group’s 13 founding members bring a wide range of expertise as leaders from Columbia School of Nursing, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the New York State Health Foundation, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, NYU Rory Myers College of Nursing, Penn Medicine, SUNY Upstate Medical University, and University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. To learn more about the group’s work and members or to inquire about joining, visit this page.

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