Issue: National Institutes of Health Establishes Centers of Excellence for Maternal Health Research | nitched

Issue: National Institutes of Health Establishes Centers of Excellence for Maternal Health Research |  nitched

The National Institutes of Health awarded $24 million in first-year funding to establish Centers of Excellence for Maternal Health Research. As part of the NIH Initiative to Implement a Vision for All on Maternal Health and Pregnancy Outcomes (IMPROVE), the centers will develop and evaluate innovative approaches to reduce pregnancy-related complications and deaths and advance maternal health equity. The grants are expected to last seven years and total an estimated $168 million, pending funds availability.

Compared with other high-income countries, the United States has a high rate of maternal mortality, with more than 1,200 deaths occurring in 2021, the latest year for which data is available. Every year, tens of thousands of Americans experience serious pregnancy-related complications, which can increase the risk of future health concerns, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental health conditions. There are stark disparities in maternal health outcomes by racial and ethnic group, age, education, socioeconomic status, and geographic region.

“The magnitude and persistence of maternal health disparities in the United States underscores the need for research to identify evidence-based solutions to advance health equity and improve outcomes nationwide,” says National Institutes of Health Director Diana W. Bianchi. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “By collaborating with community partners and others, the Centers of Excellence for Maternal Health Research will produce important scientific evidence to help guide clinical care and reduce health disparities during and after pregnancy.”

NICHD, the NIH Office of Research in Women’s Health, and the National Institute for Nursing Research are co-leading the IMPROVE initiative, with several other components of the NIH participating.

The Centers of Excellence include 10 research centers, a data innovation and coordination center, and an implementation science center. Together, these institutions will design and implement research projects to address the biological, behavioural, environmental, social, cultural and structural factors that influence pregnancy-related complications and mortality. It will focus on populations experiencing health disparities, including racial and ethnic minorities, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, those living in disadvantaged rural areas, sexual and gender minorities, and people with disabilities.

The research centers will collaborate with community collaborators, such as state and local public health agencies, community health centers, and faith-based organizations. In addition, the research centers will support the training and professional development of maternal health researchers, including those from backgrounds that are underrepresented in the biomedical research workforce.

Funding was awarded to the centers after a competitive peer review process. The following institutions, listed alphabetically with the project name and principal investigator, will participate as research centres:

  • Avera McKennan Hospital, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
    Maternal American Indian Rural Community Health (MARCH)
    Principal Investigator: Amy J. Elliott, Ph.D.
  • Columbia University, New York City
    New York Community-Hospital-Academic Equity Partnership in Maternal Health (NY-CHAMP)
    Principal Investigator: Uma Reddy, MD
  • Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi
    Mississippi Delta Center for Excellence in Maternal Health
    Principal Investigator: Mary D. Shaw, Ph.D.
  • 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 Interventions for Racial Equity (MIRACLE) Center.
    Principal Investigator: Cristian Ioan Mejia, Ph.D.
  • Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia
    Center for Advancing Reproductive Justice and Behavioral Health among Pregnant/Postpartum Black Women and Birthing Persons (CORAL)
    Principal Investigator: Natalie Dolores Hernandez, Ph.D.
  • Stanford University, Stanford, California
    Stanford University PRIHSM: Preventing Inequalities in Severe Hemorrhage-Related Maternal Morbidity
    Principal Investigator: Yasser Youssef Al-Sayed, MD
  • Tulane University, New Orleans
    Southern Center for Maternal Health Equity
    Principal Investigator: Emily Wheeler Harvill, Ph.D.
  • University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City
    Center for Indigenous Resilience, Culture and Maternal Health Equity
    Principal Investigator: Karina M. Schreffler, Ph.D.
  • University of Utah, Salt Lake City
    ELEVATE Center: Reducing Maternal Morbidity Due to Substance Use Disorder in Utah
    Principal Investigator: Tori D. Metz, MD

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore will serve as a center for data innovation and coordination. This center, led by principal investigator Andrea Kringa, MD, PhD, will support data collection, ensure high quality of data, and provide data science expertise. The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, will serve as the Implementation Science Center. Under the direction of principal investigator Megan Brooks-Lynn Fall, MD, this center will help advance the integration of research findings and evidence into public health, clinical practice and community settings.


About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): NICHD leads research and training to understand human development, improve reproductive health, enhance the lives of children and adolescents, and improve capabilities for all. For more information, visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): The National Institutes of Health, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 institutes and centers, and is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The National Institutes of Health is the primary federal agency that conducts and supports basic, clinical, and translational medical research, investigating the causes and treatments for both common and rare diseases. For more information about the National Institutes of Health and its programs, visit

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