Event aims to share ways to improve maternal health in Georgia 

Close-Up Photo Of Pregnant Woman touching her stomach

The Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center is hosting an event to share information about programs that are improving maternal health in the state, with the hope that these successes can be replicated elsewhere.

The free, two-day symposium, “Let’s Talk Maternal Health: What’s Working in Georgia,” is planned for June 23-24 in the Presidents Dining Room on Mercer University’s Macon campus. The event is open to those interested in maternal health, regardless of whether they work in the field.

More pregnant women and new mothers are dying from pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes in Georgia than nearly anywhere else in the nation. The state ranks 48th out of 50 in terms of maternal mortality.

Glenda Grant
Glenda Grant

“That’s a problem, not just in urban areas but in rural areas as well,” said Glenda Grant, executive director of the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center, which is dedicated to improving health care opportunities and outcomes in rural Georgia. “And so, we started talking to people around the state … about programs and things that they were doing to improve maternal health.”

Grant and her team learned there were communities in Georgia with programs that produced positive outcomes, but they didn’t always know what others around the state were doing.

“We thought it would be really great if everybody had a place to come together to talk about what was going well and to see where we could find some commonalities and where we could duplicate programs in other communities,” Grant said. “There’s no reason to recreate the wheel if you have something that’s working well.”

Toward that end, the symposium will discuss some of those successful programs, which include home visits to pregnant women and maternal telehealth.

“The more we have these conversations about what’s working well in other places, people say, ‘Hey, we’re similar to them, that may work in our area, and so then they’re more willing to give it a try,” Grant said.

Jennifer Barkin
Dr. Jennifer Barkin

Dr. Jennifer Barkin, professor and vice chair of community medicine in the Mercer School of Medicine, will share information about the Barkin Index of Maternal Functioning, an assessment she created to measure a new mom’s level of functioning.

It’s a powerful tool for determining how a mother is managing life after childbirth, especially when administered by a mental health professional. It wouldn’t replace depression screening but rather complement it, Barkin said.

“I can’t even tell you how many women will say to me, ‘I wasn’t crying all the time. I was able to get out of bed. I don’t think I’m depressed, but I’m really anxious,’” she said.

Events like the planned symposium are important for disseminating knowledge, Barkin said, especially to areas outside of Atlanta where people may not be aware of all the free resources available to them.

“If we’re talking about solutions that work, it’s good to let everybody know what these solutions are and where to find them,” she said.

Learn more and register for the event at georgiaruralhealth.org/maternal-health-symposium.


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Jennifer Falk
Jennifer Falk is director of digital communications at Mercer. She edits and writes feature stories for The Den and examines web data and analytics to drive content decisions. She also creates and supervises the creation of content for primary University web pages and e-newsletters.