Milken Institute School of Public Health to Launch First-Ever Center Focused on Maternal and Child Health in Nation’s Capital

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 2, 2020) — The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) today announced it will launch the GW Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Education, Science, Practice and Policy, the first of its kind in the nation’s capital. The GW Maternal and Child Health Center will be funded by a 5-year, $1.75 million grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCB) of the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Led by Amita N. Vyas, PhD, MHS, director of the Maternal and Child Health Program at Milken Institute SPH, the Center will provide educational, training and research opportunities for faculty and students, as well as agencies, organizations, and communities in Washington, D.C.

The GW Maternal and Child Health Center aims to strengthen the curriculum offered to students of the Master of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health program at Milken Institute SPH and increase research opportunities related to maternal and child health by establishing partnerships with community organizations and health agencies. The Center will leverage its unique location in Washington, D.C to provide students with training opportunities in policy at the local and federal level. It will also partner with other MCHB-funded Centers of Excellence across the country on projects related to policy and practice.

“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.

Despite the significant gains over the last decades, much work remains, especially for those who are socially or economically marginalized, she added.

“Our Center of Excellence will provide us with unique opportunities to address these needs by supporting a highly trained, interdisciplinary workforce of diverse practitioners, policy experts and scientists,” Vyas said.

The metropolitan Washington, D.C. area has adverse health outcomes related to reproductive, maternal and child health. The District’s maternal mortality rate is twice the national average and it also struggles with a high infant mortality rate. The region also faces challenges related to reproductive health, including high rates of unintended teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. The GW Maternal and Child Health Center aims to evaluate and pioneer innovative public health strategies that can address these challenges to improve outcomes in the D.C. region and be used as an example nationwide.

Over the last two decades, the Maternal and Child Health Program at Milken Institute SPH has graduated over 450 emerging public health leaders and has evolved into a premier destination for research and education related to the health and well-being of women and children worldwide.

“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.”