July 25, 2024

The National Institutes of Health Pathways to Prevention panel recommends forming “Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Prevention Moonshot” program

MANHASSET, N.Y.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations – with worse health outcomes for Black women and other minority groups. To help find actionable solutions, Karina Davidson, PhD, director of Northwell Health’s The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research’s Institute of Health System Science, led a number of preeminent scientists across the country in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Pathways to Prevention independent task force. Their recommendations were announced today in the journal Obstetrics

& Gynecology and included calling for a “Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Prevention Moonshot” that will set new goals to improve maternal health, guide funding and establish new interventional programs nationwide.

These recommendations serve as a significant boost to the White House’s recent Women’s Research Initiative, announced on November 13, which aims to allocate resources and efforts towards enhancing women’s health. The pressing maternal health crisis is influenced by various factors, including socioeconomic disparities, racial inequalities, violence, trauma, and underlying health conditions. Dr. Davidson and her independent panel of national experts conducted an extensive review of existing data related to maternal morbidity prevalence, prevention strategies, and intervention approaches. They meticulously documented their findings and recommendations in a published paper titled “Maternal Mortality Is Preventable: A National Institutes of Health Pathways to Prevention Panel Report Transforming the Prevention Paradigm.” These insights offer a crucial step toward improving maternal health outcomes.

The recommendations include:

  • Develop a new multilevel life course research framework to better understand the societal, community, and interpersonal factors that affect maternal outcomes.
  • Improve research study development and data collection with an emphasis on inclusivity.
  • Fund and improve interventional studies aimed at improving maternal health outcomes.
  • Expand Medicaid coverage for maternal, newborn and mental health services for up to a year.
  • Develop a maternal health moonshot mindset to set goals, allocate funding and promote scalable programs across all communities.

“Losing a parent during childbirth has staggering life-long effects on families and communities. New approaches to tackle the root causes of maternal morbidity and mortality rates are needed urgently,” said Dr. Davidson, chair of the NIH-Pathways to Prevention Panel, senior vice president of research at the Feinstein Institutes, and the Donald and Barbara Zucker Professor in Health Outcomes at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. “We are confident that the panel’s recommendations will encourage researchers and change-makers nationwide to address and alleviate this crisis.”

The NIH-Pathways to Prevention panel’s first moonshot goal is a 50 percent or more reduction in preventable maternal mortality and elimination of racial and ethnic disparities over the next 10 years. The group affirms that with allocated resources and a focus on equity in prevention, public health, research, and health care access and quality, positive outcomes can bend the upward trend and reduce maternal death while equitably promoting maternal health.

“Research funding targeted to major public health issues is in the best interest of the country,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes and Karches Family Distinguished Chair in Medical Research. “Dr. Davidson’s participation with the NIH is important for new research and interventions to improve maternal health.”

Northwell Health continues to make maternal health a priority. In 2022, the health system formed its Center for Maternal Health, led by Dawnette Lewis, MD, MPH. By harnessing high-tech solutions like artificial intelligence-driven tools and collaborations with community provider organizations, the Center drives forward the health system’s campaign to reduce the country’s maternal mortality rate.

About the Feinstein Institutes


The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research is the home of the research institutes of Northwell Health, the largest health care provider and private employer in New York State. Encompassing 50 research labs, 3,000 clinical research studies and 5,000 researchers and staff, the Feinstein Institutes raises the standard of medical innovation through its five institutes of behavioral science, bioelectronic medicine, cancer, health system science, and molecular medicine. We make breakthroughs in genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and are the global scientific leader in bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine. For more information about how we produce knowledge to cure disease, visit http://feinstein.northwell.edu and follow us on LinkedIn


Matthew Libassi



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