Researchers, Community Organizations Take Part in Maternal and Child Health Summit

By Kev' Moye

During the summit, researchers, health care professionals and community organizations learned about trends and solutions related to maternal and child health in Arkansas.

“Our goal was to focus on advocacy and the importance of advocating for women, infants and children as individuals,” said Alex Marshall, Ph.D., associate professor in HBHE. “We wanted people to understand that advocacy can make a difference in changing policy on a local, state and national level.

“It’s important to empower people to advocate for maternal and child health so we can see improved outcomes.”

The theme of the summit was: “Advocating for Maternal and Child Health: A Human and Civil Right.”

The summit took place in hybrid fashion as people attended in person or via Zoom. The event featured a presentation by Clare Brown Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor in the college. Brown also moderated a panel discussion that focused on improving maternal and child health and health care. Jessica Coker, M.D., Jennifer Callaghan-Koru, Ph.D., — both from UAMS — along with Creshelle Nash, M.D., made up the expert panel.

Other speakers included Zenobia Harris, DNP, of the Arkansas Birthing Project, Shaashawn Dial and Rachel Stoutamire of Planned Parenthood Great Plains (KS), Sam Greenfield, M.D., of UAMS and the Arkansas Department of Health, and Rebecca Zimmermann of Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families.

“It was important for us to bring together academics, students, clinicians, and community members to highlight health disparities that are affecting women and children in Arkansas,” Marshall said.

Statistics show that the disparities harm Black women at a huge rate. Fittingly, the summit included in-depth focus on potential solutions.

“The numbers around Black maternal mortality are unacceptable,” Marshall said. “We see high Black maternal mortality rates and high infant mortality rates and preterm birth issues, especially in comparison to the data for white women.

“Research has shown that there are social and political factors profoundly impacting the Black maternal mortality rate.”

Marshall said attendees enjoyed the summit. Many of them expressed appreciation for the opportunity to learn new data and hear about how various organizations and health care professionals are working to address Arkansas’ maternal and child health status.

“People embraced the chance to learn and make connections with likeminded individuals who advocate for maternal and child health.” she said. “I truly enjoyed hosting the summit and giving all of the featured presenters an opportunity to share their expertise.”