Faculty, staff, and research initiatives, formerly from The UT System Population Health team, join UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in Austin to expand maternal and child health expertise. The Population Health team was established in 2015 to address the needs of maternal and child health through partnerships with and funding from state agencies. These partnerships led to the establishment of state-wide collaboratives and informing public health programs.
David Lakey, MD, vice chancellor for health affairs and chief medical officer for The University of Texas System entrusts UTHealth Houston School of Public Health to take on the collaborative.
“For the past eight years, the Office of Health Affairs at UT System has been incubating the maternal and child health programs under Population Health. These maternal and child health programs have been successful and are now ready for full integration to UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in Austin,” said Lakey.
Population Health has produced over $6.4 million in research funding this past year, and over $30 million since its inception, for health improvement initiatives established and embedded throughout Texas. Funds are utilized to identify population health approaches to improve the health of Texas families, mothers, babies, and young children.
“The vision of our location is ‘healthy children in a healthy world’. For that to happen, we need to have healthy women. This initiative will enable us to improve the health of our littlest Texans by improving the health of their mothers and their support systems, including fathers and other family members.” said Hoelscher, who also serves as the director of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living.
A key addition includes The Texas Collaborative for Healthy Mothers and Babies, a long-standing multidisciplinary network of health professionals throughout the state. Their mission is to advance healthcare quality, equity, and patient safety for all Texas mothers and babies. The collaborative hosts an annual summit in February to discuss and present topics related to that year’s theme. Most recently, the Summit’s 2023 theme was “Social Determinants of Health and How They Impact Maternal and Neonatal Health Outcomes”.
The new programs and initiatives oversee several projects to address and improve health with primary initiatives focused on the following:
- Patient care quality improvement
- Expansion, implementation, and dissemination of clinical interventions
- Evaluation of prevention and early intervention methods
- Identification of disparities associated with infant mortality
- Information and support programs that promote community resilience and optimal childhood brain development
- Needs assessment for the early childhood system in Texas and evaluation of the impact of the state’s activities toward strengthening the early childhood system.
Three key researchers with expertise in maternal and child health join UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in Austin as newly appointed faculty, including Dorothy Mandell, PhD; Divya Patel, PhD; and Katharine Buek, PhD. In addition to these new faculty members, the Austin regional location added 11 new staff members, with expertise ranging from neonatal nursing to project management to health equity.
The newest additions to the faculty body in Austin will continue to drive progress and transformation in their respective fields, particularly the below projects:
- Texas Collaborative for Healthy Mothers and Babies (TCHMB), funded by Texas DSHS – PI: Deanna Hoelscher
- CDC Perinatal Quality Collaboratives (Bringing a Health Equity Framework for the Texas Perinatal Quality Collaborative to Eliminate Disparities in Perinatal Health), funded by CDC – PI: Divya Patel
- Texas Safe Babies, funded by the Department of Family & Protective Services (DFPS) – PI: Dorothy Mandell
- Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Coordinated State Evaluation, funded by DFPS – PI: Dorothy Mandell
- Healthy Families/Healthy Mujeres, funded by HHSC – PI: Divya Patel
- Evaluation of the Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five, funded by the Texas Workforce Commission – PI: Dorothy Mandell
“We look forward to furthering the excellent work and collaborations that Dr. Lakey began and has nurtured over the past few years. We are grateful to Dr. Lakey, his staff, and the state agencies who have funded this work for their partnership and vision in achieving a healthier Texas for our children, our families, and our communities. ” said Hoelscher.