A Community-Centered Approach to Improve Maternal Health in Louisiana

The Maternal Health Community Implementation Program (MH-CIP) research coalition with the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine is making strides in collaborative community efforts to address Louisiana’s maternal health outcomes. The coalition is focused on reaching women who receive Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) services who were diagnosed with a high blood sugar disorder that developed during pregnancy or who have obesity. The project aims to help them prevent diabetes through healthy eating and increased physical activity after giving birth. At the heart of the coalition’s work lies a vital component of the project, the Community Advisory Committee (CAC).

Initially led by Mary E. Schultheis, president and CEO of Crescent City Family Services, the formation of the CAC emerged as a foundation of the coalition’s community engagement strategy. Schultheis emphasized the strategic selection process for committee members. "We looked for partners with similar missions and visions, making it easier to engage those who had already supported us in other initiatives," she explained. The committee members come from a diverse range of backgrounds, including health care providers, faith-based organizations, farmers' markets and WIC representatives, and diabetes prevention advocates. This kind of community representation enriches the perspectives brought to the table and ensures the community’s needs are met.

The involvement of the CAC extends across all phases of the project. Committee members have contributed to various activities including reviewing questionnaires during the needs assessment phase, leading focus groups, and planning the pilot program. Dr. Kirsten S. Dorans, assistant professor at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and contact principal investigator for the MH-CIP Tulane coalition elaborated on the CAC members’ participation. “Their feedback wasn't just sought; it was integrated into the project's implementation plans and used to refine strategies along the way. Their feedback on our plans for the pilot phase was instrumental in shaping our approach.” Schultheis highlighted the value of their expertise, adding, “Their input guided us in identifying barriers and considerations for implementation.” 

Community partners within the CAC have expressed satisfaction with the research coalition’s efforts. Specifically, they appreciate how the team prioritizes community voices, ensuring that research is not only viewed through a research lens but also considers the community’s perspective.

The next project phase will see the coalition expand its project in 36 clinics across Louisiana and introduce a new community group of mothers who have recently used WIC services, in addition to the CAC. Making sure that community voices are heard remains a priority for the Tulane coalition as it continues to commit to community-engaged solutions for improving maternal health outcomes. 

To learn more about MH-CIP research coalition at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, visit their website: https://strivestudy.org/ 


Three WIC staff women