The Center for Black Maternal Health and Reproductive Justice (CBMHRJ) was developed as an extension of the MOTHER Lab, founded, and directed by Dr. Ndidiamaka Amutah-Onukagha, PhD, MPH, CHES, the Julia A. Okoro Professor of Black Maternal Health and Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine in the School of Medicine. The vision and rationale of the CBMHRJ is to protect the Black birthing experience by advocating for quality, equitable, and respectful care in childbirth. The center seeks to create a world where Black women can safely, efficiently, and comfortably receive equitable access to healthcare services without having to navigate through racism and/or discrimination in medical settings. The CBMHRJ envisions that the interdisciplinary research center will be integrated with faculty from all Tufts schools.

The mission of the CBMHRJ is to foster academic and community-engaged research in support of the center’s goals to conduct maternal health research with a focus on Black maternal health and eliminating inequities.

The main goal of the center is to foster maternal health research at Tufts University School of Medicine, with a particular focus on improving the health of Black birthing persons and their babies by reducing maternal health disparities.

The organizational structure of CBMHRJ will be broken down into six units which will be led by internal faculty members acting as Unit Leads at Tufts University. Dr. Ndidiamaka Amutah-Onukagha will serve as the founding director of the CBMHRJ. Please view a description of each of the units below.

Center Units

MOTHER Lab Unit: This unit will house the current student members, alumni, and volunteers of the Maternal Outcomes for Translational Health Equity Research (MOTHER) Lab and will support on-going events of MOTHER Lab (i.e., webinars, podcasts, the annual Black Maternal Health Conference, and ongoing lab related activities).

Research Development Unit: This unit will be the key for research strategy and development by prioritizing research agendas, grants, and scientific development for the Center. Individuals in this unit will be responsible for gathering and analyzing local, state level and nationwide maternal health data with a focus on disparities and inequities. Findings will serve as the driving force for future research and programmatic planning of interventions focused on reproductive and maternal health.

Maternal Health Epidemiology and Data Synthesis Unit: The goal of this unit will be to conduct surveillance continuously relating to maternal health disparities including severe maternal morbidity (SMM), reduction and/or eradication of those disparities with the aim of improving maternal health outcomes for Black mothers. Additionally, the unit will also assess environmental determinants of health that may either exacerbate or mitigate the current maternal health outcomes for Black women.

Maternal and Child Health Policy Unit: The goal of this unit is to influence and inform policy makers to support maternal and child health laws supportive of Black maternal health with the goal of closing the gap on maternal health disparities. This unit will prioritize policy analysis to determine the impact of state and federal bills that either strengthen or weaken maternal health care. Building upon Dr. Amutah-Onukagha’s role as an appointed commissioner with the Massachusetts Racial Inequities Maternal Health Commission, this unit will aim to build and maintain alliances with strategic health policy leaders at the local, state, and national levels. It will serve as a space for policy makers to maximize their reach and influence legislation. Furthermore, the efforts of this center will help to build and strengthen relationships with local and state level organizations focused on Black Maternal Health.

Education & Training Unit: The center will serve as a workforce training experience for students and public health professionals with a passion for Black maternal health. There will be a primary focus on facilitating education and training with the goal of centering diversity, equity, and inclusion for developing health practitioners as well as those currently practicing in the field. Consultation and training programming in these areas will be made available to interested Tufts-associated parties and external organizations. Training curricula will be designed to include subject matter such as racial bias, cultural competency, community outreach methods, and quality healthcare as defined by patient confidence, active listening of providers, and transparent communication with marginalized populations. As the Center grows, the CBMHRJ leadership team will add other relevant workshops and curricula for working professionals, including clinicians and state health workers, or providing access to modules developed for MPH or MD students. Training curriculums will be designed to include the subject matters of racial bias, cultural competency, community outreach methods, and the components of quality healthcare for Black birthing people. The goals of this programming for the center are aligned with the Maternal Health Epidemiology and Data Synthesis Unit.

Community Engaged Research Unit: This unit will be used as a means of linking the CBMHRJ with community partners or stakeholders to help support healthy mothers and healthy babies. These partnerships are expected to include doulas, OB providers, midwives, hospital directors, public health department directors, and academics from other research institutions whose interest are in alignment with that of the Tufts CBMHRJ. Evidence of these collaborative partnerships are expected to result in published research, and ongoing relationships with community-based organizations who are in partnership to reduce Black maternal health disparities.