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Arnold School of Public Health

Jihong Liu wins grant to advance Arnold School training and curriculum in maternal and child health

June 15, 2020 | Erin Bluvas,

The Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded $450,000 to epidemiology professor Jihong Liu, who will lead the Arnold School’s maternal and child health experts in bolstering programming and training opportunities in this area. The five-year grant is part of HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Public Health Catalyst Program and aims to provide an increased focus on fundamental maternal and child health content and competencies within schools of public health while introducing students to careers within the field.

With support from graduate director for epidemiology Linda Hazlett and director of evaluation and academic assessment Delores Pluto, Liu will work with maternal and child health researchers from across the Arnold School to build on the solid foundation of academic courses, practical applications and research opportunities already available at the School to strengthen the existing programming. Approximately 40 Arnold School researchers have expertise related to maternal and child health populations, and many of these faculty members will contribute to the project.

As with many public health issues, the geographical backdrop of the Arnold School’s endeavors to address maternal and child health challenges offers a unique context and opportunity for developing solutions to the many problems that plague these populations. South Carolina ranks poorly for many key maternal and child health indicators and is experiencing increasing trends in preterm births and infant mortality. Further, health disparities related to race, socioeconomic status and urban/rural residence persist within the state.

“There is an urgent need for a diverse, skilled, capable and informed workforce to serve South Carolina families,” Liu says. “Building on the extensive maternal and child health-relevant courses offered, rich faculty expertise and student interest, this grant will allow us to establish a maternal and child health curricular infrastructure at the Arnold School – which is the sole accredited school of public health in the state – to train professionals who are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of women, infants, children, youth and families and who will help meet our state and nation’s current and future needs for a specialized workforce.”

As part of the Maternal and Child Health Public Health Catalyst Program, Liu and her colleagues will expand the Arnold School’s maternal and child health curriculum beyond its existing courses, develop a maternal and child health certificate program, and work to ensure that the students enrolled in the program represent diverse backgrounds. The team will also engage students as trainees within the catalyst program to help prepare them for careers in maternal and child health-focused jobs in public health. This goal will be achieved through activities such as connecting certificate program students with faculty mentors who share similar interests, creating a Maternal and Child Health Student Interest Group, and establishing a Maternal and Child Health Scholar Program to enhance the training of particularly promising students by offering competitive research funding to foster and support student projects.

“We are excited to receive this much-needed funding to recruit and support our students and student-related activities in maternal and child health while developing a stronger curriculum in this area,” Liu says. “With our joint efforts, we hope to be able to work toward establishing an Excellence Center in Maternal and Child Health in the future.”



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