PHILADELPHIA – Penn Medicine will serve a critical role in driving research to reduce pregnancy-related complications and deaths and promote maternal health equity through a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant. The $19 million, seven-year grant funds the creation of an implementation science hub as part of the NIH’s new Maternal Health Research of Centers of Excellence initiative.
Through this initiative, the NIH has funded 10 centers of excellence research centers, the implementation science hub, and a data innovation hub to support research to reduce pregnancy-related complications, deaths, and promote maternal health equity. The implementation science hub team—led by Meghan Lane-Fall, MD, MSHP, the David E. Longnecker Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, and Rebecca Hamm, MD, MSCE, an assistant professor of Maternal Fetal Medicine, both in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania—will work with these centers on development, execution, and analysis of their research, to help bring findings into clinical practice and community settings. The hub is called AMETHIST@Penn, which stands for Achieving Maternal Equity and Transforming Health through Implementation Science and Training.
“While there have been great strides and increased focus in advancing our understanding of maternal health, especially in the last few years, without the ability to integrate our knowledge and findings into practice, there is no benefit to patients,” said Lane-Fall. “This is why implementation science is so important—it helps ramp up the pathway from research to clinical care.”
The new grant adds to Penn's robust maternal health research portfolio, which includes initiatives to address racial disparities in maternal health outcomes, measure cardiovascular risks in pregnant patients, and monitor placental health to more accurately measure and predict high-risk pregnancies. Poor maternal health outcomes in the United States are statistically more common compared to other similar countries. According to the CDC, maternal mortality is increasing, with more than 1,200 women died of maternal causes in the United States in 2021—compared to 861 in 2020 and 754 in 2019.
“There are a myriad of causes for poor maternal health outcomes from socio-economic disparities, to structural racism and environmental impacts,” said Hamm. “Challenges are as straightforward as problems making it to important medical appointments due to job or other personal responsibilities, to the management of more complicated disorders like gestational diabetes. So when we think through addressing specific outcomes, we need to make sure solutions we test can actually reach the populations who need them most. This is what our implementation science hub can help researchers studying interventions in maternal health address. ”
Researchers from the 10 research centers across the United States include Avera McKennan Hospital, Columbia University, Jackson State University, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Michigan State University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Stanford University, Tulane University, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and the University of Utah. The centers of excellence, a data innovation and coordinating hub led by Johns Hopkins University, and the implementation science hub at Penn Medicine, will work together to design and implement research projects to address the many factors that affect pregnancy-related complications and deaths, with a focus on populations that experience health disparities.
Lane-Fall, Hamm, and others involved with the implementation science hub will support nearly 20 large-scale research projects being performed at the selected centers from beginning to end, assisting in incorporating implementation science methods into their designs and analyses, and ideally helping experts in the centers for excellence deploy their innovative ideas into practice. The hub will also support training and education for the next generation of maternal health implementation scientists nationwide.
This research is supported by the NIH (1U24HD113146-01).
Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, excellence in patient care, and community service. The organization consists of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Penn’s Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine, founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school.
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