The Women and Health Initiative is led by Dr. Ana Langer, a physician specializing in pediatrics and neonatology, and a reproductive health expert. She joined the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in July 2010 as a Professor of the Practice of Public Health in the Department of Global Health and Population. Dr. Langer is respected worldwide as a leader in reproductive and maternal health, the translation of evidence into policies and programs, the improvement of quality of health care for women and families. For more than 30 years, she has been a leading researcher, programmer and advocate for the improvement of women’s health.
Dr. Langer has published extensively on maternal mortality; technical and interpersonal quality of maternal health care; unsafe abortion; contraception; the introduction of evidence-based practices in maternal health services; and strategies to strengthen women’s reproductive rights. In 2015, in collaboration with experts from all over the world, Dr. Langer published the comprehensive report Women and Health: A key to sustainable development in The Lancet. The paper lays out the foundations of the women and health framework which analyzes women’s health along the life cycle and its connections with social determinants of health and global transitions, and provides the evidence to fully demonstrate the critical roles women play as health care givers, and the development of communities and nations
Under Dr. Langer’s leadership, the W&HI works on measurement of maternal health, sexual and reproductive health and rights in settings affected by conflict, maternal health and social support in the Greater Boston Area, and quality of maternal health care globally. In collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute, the W&HI coordinates the LEAD fellowship (Learn, Engage, Advance, Disrupt Fellowship), a novel program designed to promote leadership skills in individuals from low- and middle-income countries who will, in turn, mentor future female leaders in global health.
Recently, Dr. Langer and the W&HI became deeply involved in research and advocacy for maternal and reproductive health and women’s rights in the COVID-19 era . The W&HI partners with the University of Oxford and multiple other organizations around the world on the INTERCOVID project, a prospective cohort study in pregnancy and the neonatal period that aims to provide women, families, health care providers and policymakers with high-quality evidence regarding the effects of COVID-19 infection on maternal, fetal and neonatal outcomes by carrying out a large, multi-national, prospective cohort study.
Dr. Langer teaches two courses at Harvard Chan School: GHP 231: Sexual Reproductive Health: Global Perspectives and GHP 547: Field Experience in Maternal Health. GHP 231 provides an overview of sexual and reproductive health and rights from a global perspective with a focus on the most disadvantaged populations. The course covers the critical topics in this field from diverse perspectives, including but not limited to historic, conceptual, research, methodological, policy, programmatic, and advocacy.
GHP 547 provides students with an opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge to maternal health issues in low- and middle-income countries through direct experiences with the Maternal Health Task Force partner organizations. Each student’s experience is individually designed to meet the needs of both the student and the host organization.
Dr. Langer advises multiple masters and doctoral students working on women and maternal health issues.
Past Leadership Positions
Before joining the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Dr. Langer was president and CEO of EngenderHealth (2005-2010), an international not-for-profit organization that has worked for seven decades in more than 90 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and men. From 1994-2005, Dr. Langer was the Population Council’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean based in Mexico; for the last two of those years she was simultaneously the acting director of the Council’s Global Reproductive Health Program. Previously, she was the chair of the Department of Research in Women and Children’s Health for the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico (1988-1994), where she led clinical trials and research projects and established the first master’s program in reproductive health in the Latin America and the Caribbean region.
Dr. Langer has a long track record of collaborating with leading academic organizations focused on global health, women’s health and reproductive health in the US and around the world. She works closely with reproductive health organizations, such as the Reproductive Health Research Programme of the World Health Organization, the Oxford Maternal and Perinatal Health Institute (OPMPHI), the Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research (Board member), and is member of advisory boards of key institutions in the field of women’s health, such as NIH’s Office for Research on Women’s Health, Merck for Mothers, Countdown to 2030 and other international and national reproductive health organizations and donors. She also serves on several editorial boards, including The Lancet International Advisory Board and The Lancet Public Health.