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Dean's Message from Sten Vermund - Spring 2022

Yale Public Health Magazine, Focus: Spring 2022
by Sten H. Vermund


Responding to the Call for Equity in Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health.

On Dec. 7, 2021, a national call to action was made by our vice president to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States. The announcement was welcome news for those of us in public health, where addressing health inequities and improving maternal and child health have always been a central part of our mission.

The inequities that exist in maternal, neonatal and child health (MNCH) care are deeply disturbing. Despite our country’s vast resources, America’s maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world compared with other higher-income nations. Mortality risks for Black and Native American women are especially high, as are infant mortality rates. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that two out of three maternal deaths are preventable.

Global estimates suggest that 810 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. A former mentor and former classmate of mine wrote the classic call to action in The Lancet entitled “Maternal mortality—a neglected tragedy. Where is the M in MCH?” (PMID: 2861534), but this was published 37 years ago! Today, 94% of all maternal deaths occur in low- and lower- middle-income countries. The World Health Organization is clear—access to more skilled antenatal care and better capacitated child-birth services could save the lives of nearly 200,000 women and their newborns each year worldwide.

It is within this context that YSPH presents our Spring 2022 issue of Focus magazine. In this issue, you will learn about the many MNCH challenges that exist in the U.S. and around the world. We reiterate YSPH’s commitment to finding solutions to these critically important issues through collaborative research, implementation science, innovation, engagement with local communities and partnerships with our colleagues in the Yale Schools of Medicine and Nursing.

Of all the important articles featured in this issue, I’d like to highlight the work of our Office of Public Health Practice and the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement, or CARE (a joint program with Southern Connecticut State University), in collaboration with outstanding New Haven community partners, to improve maternal, neonatal and child health in New Haven County, Bridgeport, and New York City. CARE, the Elevate Policy Lab, the Prevention Research Center (with Griffin Hospital) and others are working to address health inequities related to nutrition, physical activity, and access to community clinical care, among other vital themes. One of their primary points of focus is identifying barriers to breastfeeding among communities of color and supporting parents toward the healthiest nutritional options for themselves and their families.

Sincere thanks to all YSPH faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community/academic/health system partners who are working tirelessly to address these critical issues in MNCH.

Sten H. Vermund, M.D., Ph.D.

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