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Strengthen the Evidence for Maternal and Child Health Programs

New: MCHbest strategies database for sample ESMs

Team of Experts

people collaborating around a coffee tableNCEMCH has assembled a team of 30 research and implementation experts (an academic and an expert from the field per National Performance Measure) who will be tapped on for ongoing technical assistance, review of evidence reports, and development of interactive educational tools, multi-state presentations, and training opportunities.

Building on an evidence-based model. Peer-reviewed literature finds that teams without substantial support from a coordinating body “are less able to produce results than staffed [teams].”1 NCEMCH utilizes the public health team broker (concierge) model to provide staff time to support this team, leveraging their effort in support of this project.

Advancing health equity. To ensure that MCH Evidence Center products and services address the cultural, racial, linguistic, and geographic diversity of the populations and communities served in programs supported by the MCH Block Grant program, staff consult with our colleagues at the National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC). NCEMCH and NCCC have worked together for over 25 years at Georgetown University to increase the capacity of health care and mental health care programs to design, implement, and evaluate culturally and linguistically competent service delivery systems to address growing diversity, persistent disparities, and to promote health and mental health equity.

Team of Experts Members


1. Research Expert: Sarah Verbiest, M.S.W., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., is a co-principal director for the Maternal Health Learning and Innovation Center, a new national resource center developed to accelerate innovative and evidence-informed interventions that improve maternal health and eliminate maternal health inequities. She is also the director of the Jordan Institute for Families at UNC School of Social Work and the executive director of the Collaborative for Maternal and Infant Health at UNC School of Medicine.
2. Implementation Expert: Arden Handler, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., is the Director of the Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health and a Professor in the Community Health Sciences division of the UIC School of Public Health.  Her specific interest is the exploration of factors that increase the risk for disparities in adverse pregnancy outcomes and examining ways in which the health care delivery system, particularly how prenatal care, postpartum care, and preconception/ interconception/well-woman care can ameliorate these risks and reduce disparities and inequities.


3. Research Expert: Eugene Declercq, Ph.D., is a professor at Boston University School of Public Health. He combines formal training in political science with almost twenty years of experience as a certified childbirth educator to examine policy and practice related to childbirth in the US and abroad. His recent work includes examining maternal mortality and morbidity in the US has emphasized the importance of systems approaches to improving women’s health, which involves focusing on women’s health in the community and clinical settings throughout the lifecourse.

4. Implementation Expert: Lynn Ingram McFarland, M.B.A., PMH-C, is the founder and CEO of Ingram Screening, LLC, a perinatal mental health support and training company. She has developed a perinatal mental health screening program that is available online. She is also a member of the Postpartum Support International and serves as a Regional Philanthropy Officer for the American Red Cross.


5. Research Expert: Kate Menard, M.D., M.P.H., is the UpJohn Distinguished Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vice Chair for Obstetrics and Director of the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of North Carolina's School of Medicine. In addition to her duties at UNC, she serves as Medical Director of the North Carolina’s Pregnancy Medical Home through Community Care of North Carolina, a statewide program that supports Medicaid beneficiaries and their care providers in access to high quality maternity care. Her current work includes engagement with the HRSA sponsored Maternal Health Learning and Innovations Center based at the UNC School of Public Health.
6. Implementation Expert: Rachel Hewett-Beah, M.I.L.S., M.A., is an independent researcher, previously with the University of New Mexico and the Catholic University of America. Her background includes access to and preservation of grey literature related to the public health evidence base. She has worked with the MCH Evidence Center to develop multiple Evidence Accelerators. Having spent five years living in Sierra Leone as a Peace Corps volunteer, she has returned to the village where her husband was born dozens of times over the past twenty years, learning about cultural differences in maternal care and child-birthing practices.


7. Research Expert: Kinkini Banerjee, M.S., is Coalition Relations Director of the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee, leading capacity-building efforts for the network of state breastfeeding coalitions. These efforts seek to increase and enhance coalition participation in state and national strategic collaborations to improve the reach and impact of breastfeeding support and strengthen the public health infrastructure.  
8. Implementation Expert: Barbara Himes, IBCLC, is the Director of Education and Bereavement Services with First Candle. First Candle is an organization whose objective is to save babies and support families. They are committed to the elimination of SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths through education, while providing support for grieving families. Barbara is a SIDS mother who has been with First Candle since 2008. She leads the Straight Talk for Infant Safe Sleep program and First Candle’s 24/7 bereavement services. She also participates in national and international conferences and is a member of numerous working groups.


9. Research Expert: Rachel Y. Moon, M.D., studies factors affecting sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related infant deaths, including accidental suffocation, asphyxia, and ill-defined deaths. One of Dr. Moon’s current projects aims to understand the influence of the social network (family, friends, and peers) and social norms (explicit and implicit rules of a social group) on parental decisions about how and where their infants sleep, and how differences in social networks and norms contribute to disparities in SIDS and sleep-related infant deaths.
10. Implementation Expert: Mary Adkins R.N., M.S.W., is an independent safe sleep consultant. For 15 years, she served as Program Director for Tomorrow’s Child, a statewide organization in Michigan dedicated to preventing infant death. Her work in Michigan formed the basis of the publication Building Integrated Systems to Address Sudden Infant Death.


11. Research Expert: Paul Dworkin, M.D., serves as executive vice president for community child health at Connecticut Children’s and is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Dr. Dworkin previously served as physician-in-chief at Connecticut Children’s. The Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health (the Office) is dedicated to addressing critical contemporary issues in children’s lives that can adversely affect their health and development.
12. Implementation Expert: Kimberly Martini-Carvell, M.A., is the Executive Director of Help Me Grow National Center. Most recently she served as Associate Vice President of Programs for The Village for Families and Children in Hartford, CT, where she was responsible for creating and managing prevention and early intervention programs for families and children.


13. Research Expert: Ashley Brooks-Russell, Ph.D., M.P.H., is an Associate Professor in the Community Epidemiology & Program Evaluation Department of Community & Behavioral Health at the University of Colorado School of Public Health. She is the Director of the Injury & Violence Prevention Center Population Mental Health & Wellbeing Program (IVPC).
14. Implementation Expert: Jennifer Leonardo, Ph.D., M.S.W., leads the Children’s Safety Network at the Education Development Center (EDC). She builds the capacity of states and jurisdictions to use data and evidence-based strategies to reduce injury-related deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits. Dr. Leonardo has also guided 21 states and jurisdictions in improving child safety through rapid cycle tests of change and supported state public health workers in spreading evidence-based practices.


15. Research Expert: Ross C. Brownson, Ph.D., F.A.C.E., is  Professor of Public Health at Washington University School of Medicine and Core Director for the Siteman Cancer Center. He directs the Prevention Research center where he is a leader in the field of evidence-based public health. His research interests include policy effects on physical activity. He is the lead author of Evidence-Based Public Health and Community-Based Prevention: Programs that Work.
16. Implementation Expert: Dianne Stanton Ward, Ed.D., FTOS, FACSM, is a Professor in the Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on prevention of obesity and promotion of healthy diets and physical activity through interventions implemented in child care, schools, communities, and homes. She is co-author of Physical Activity Interventions for Children.   


17. Research Expert: Marla Eisenberg, Sc.D., M.P.H., is a Professor in Pediatrics in the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health at the University of Minnesota. She conducts research focusing on social influences on health behaviors of adolescents, including teasing and bullying. She is Principal Investigator at the Healthy Environments and Stigmatized Youth (HealthEASY) lab and is conducting a multi-method pilot study on the practices and policies to prevent bias-based bullying in schools.
18. Implementation Expert: Julie Hertzog is Founding Director of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center and a nationally recognized leader on bullying prevention. She has created content for the center’s websites, toolkits, and curricula. She also helped develop initiatives including National Bullying Prevention Month; Unity Day; and Run, Walk, Roll Against Bullying, which are now nationally recognized events.


19. Research Expert: Charles E. Irwin, Jr., M.D., is Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the University of California School of Medicine. He heads The National Adolescent and Young Adult Health Information Center. He also is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
20. Implementation Expert: Eighmey Zeeck, M.P.H., is the founder and Principal Consultant of Silver Linings Public Health Consulting, LLC. Previously, Ms. Zeeck was the Women & Infant Health Program Manager at the Wyoming Department of Public Health. With more than 10 years of experience in public health, she is an expert in understanding best-practice and the importance of using evidence-base interventions to improve adolescent health.


21. Research Expert: Jamie Jones, M.P.H., is the Manager of the Medical Homes Initiatives at the American Academy of Pediatrics and with the National Resource Center. In her role, she oversees the educational and training activities, the technical assistance needs and manages the priority projects at the National Resource Center (within the AAP) to support the utilization and implementation of medical homes. She participates on national, state, and local medical home committees
22. Implementation Expert: Hope Barrett, M.P.H., is the Senior Manager for the Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Initiative at the American Academy of Pediatrics. In her role at AAP, she manages systems of care to improve the medical home initiatives, activities and integration among CYSHCN, including those who have or at risk for birth defects, developmental disabilities and other chronic conditions. In her previous role, she was the Manager of Community-Based Initiatives at the AAP.


23. Research Expert: Patience White, M.D., M.A., is Co-Director of Got Transition and Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at George Washington School of Medicine. She provides TA to integrated health care delivery systems, Title V agencies, and specialty-care practices. She is co-author of Supporting the Health Care Transition from Adolescence to Adulthood in the Medical Home.
24. Implementation Expert: Margaret McManus, M.H.S., is President of The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health and Co-Director of Got Transition. For more than three decades, she has directed federal, state, and private foundation projects related to adolescent health, CYSHCN, health insurance coverage and reimbursement, and pediatric subspecialty workforce.


25. Research Expert: Elizabeth Lowe, B.S.D.H., M.P.H., is Health Education Specialist for the National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center (OHRC). She leads efforts to develop a national set of oral health quality indicators to measure and assess processes and outcomes of oral health systems affecting MCH populations as part of the Center for Oral Health Systems Integration and Improvement.
26. Implementation Expert: Harry S. Goodman, D.M.D., M.P.H., served as President of Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors and co-chair of the Maryland Dental Action Committee. He also served as Director, Office of Oral Health, at the Maryland Department of Health, and as a Region 3 oral health consultant providing training and TA for Head Start programs.


27. Research Expert: Cathy Melvin, Ph.D., M.P.H., is Associate Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina. She has more than a decade of experience in research, policy and program development related to treating tobacco use among pregnant women. She previously served as Director of Smoke-Free Families, National Dissemination Office at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
28. Implementation Expert: Laurie Adams is founder and Executive Director for the Baby & Me—Tobacco Free Program and a certified cessation specialist. She was a project director in tobacco control programs for 15 years in New York State and helped implement policy and system change through Clean Indoor Air laws and Tobacco Free Outdoor policies.    


29. Research Expert: Margaret (Meg) Comeau, M.H.A., is a Senior Project Director for the Center in Innovation in Social Work & Health at the Boston University School of Social Work. She is a nationally recognized expert on the impact of Medicaid and federal health care reform for CYSHCN. Meg has more than 18 years of health care delivery and financing experience to her role as PI for the Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) to Advance Care for Children with Medical Complexity (CMC) and as PI of the Catalyst Center, a project focused on improving insurance coverage and financing of care for children and youth with special health care needs. 
30. Implementation Expert: Allyson Baughman, Ph.D., M.P.H., is the project director for the Center in Innovation in Social Work & Health at the Boston University School of Social Work. She has more than 12 years of experience working in program evaluation and public health research. Her previous experience includes management of a foundation-funded evaluation of an early intervention housing stabilization program for families with children under 5 years of age in Boston, MA.



1 Wolff, T. 2001. A Practitioner’s guide to successful coalitions. American Journal of Community Psychology 29(2):173–191.


This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number U02MC31613, MCH Advanced Education Policy, $3.5 M. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.