202205 Maternal Health Research Centers of Excellence

​​Program seeks Council approval for an initiative titled “Maternal Health Research Centers of Excellence.”

US maternal mortality rates are now the highest among developed countries. The CDC reports that in 2020, 861 women were identified as having died of maternal causes in the United States (including deaths due to COVID-19), compared with 754 in 2019. In addition, approximately 50,000 women experience severe maternal morbidity (SMM) each year. Causes of SMM and MM are multifaceted and vary widely by state. To address this public health crisis, National Institutes of Health launched the Implementing a Maternal health and PRegnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) initiative. The initiative supports research on how to mitigate preventable maternal mortality, decrease SMM, and promote health equity. In FY 2022, The President’s Budget included $30 million for NICHD to expand the IMPROVE initiative and to launch Centers of Excellence that support research projects that will incorporate local community needs and perspectives.

The purpose of this initiative is to establish Maternal Health Research Centers of Excellence in geographically diverse regions and in partnership with communities (i.e., AA, AI/AN, rural populations, age-related disparities) that are most affected. This initiative will use an integrated approach encompassing social, biobehavioral research ​and strategies to address the multiple contributing factors—including social determinants of health, and systemic factors such as structural racism, that lead to health disparities. The goal of this initiative is for transdisciplinary researchers to conduct multi-layered novel approaches that will have the potential to drastically reduce pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated maternal deaths and decrease severe maternal morbidity.

This proposed concept aligns with the goals of the NIH-wide IMPROVE initiative and NICHD’s Strategic Plan 2020, specifically for Theme 3, Setting the Foundation for Healthy Pregnancies and Lifelong Wellness. This proposed concept also aligns with the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch, as well other branches represented in the Maternal Health Coordinating Committee’s priorities of reducing maternal morbidity and mortality and improving neonatal and infant outcomes.

Program Contact

Nahida Chakhtoura
Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch (PPB)


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