Tackling Critical Issues in Maternal Health

A Case Series For Maternal Health Professionals




This case series, developed by Harvard T.H. Chan’s Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health (MCH), analyzes maternal health programs and policies in the United States pertaining to emerging issues in the field. The series consists of four cases; three are preplanned and listed below. The final case will be chosen from a scenario a professional participant is struggling with in their daily work, submitted during the application process. Harvard graduate students and professional participants will form teams to respond to at least two cases (applicants will rank cases depending on their interest in the topic). Each team must prepare for two case reviews and attend at least one other case review. Preparation includes reading the case before it is reviewed in class, meeting outside of class time with students to answer pre-developed discussion questions, and leading a discussion of the case on review day. This case series requires a time commitment of approximately 8-9 hours, including time in and out of class. Aside from the teamwork, no other assignments are required. The case series is free of charge, and participants may join in-person or virtually, through Zoom. The class will be held at Harvard T.H. Chan’s campus and meets on select Mondays from 3:45 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. EST.


The case series will consist of four cases, three are predetermined and listed below. One will be developed from a current issue a professional participant is experiencing on the job.

  •     Building Programs to Improve Equity in Doula Access
  •     The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative: A Breastfeeding Band-Aid?
  •     Ethical Dilemmas in LARC Counseling for Teens of Color


This case series in maternal health is meant to catalyze creative problem-solving and dynamic teamwork across disciplines. Participants will not only develop skills in science-driven thinking for maternal health, but will also learn about emerging topics in the field and network with other maternal health professionals, Harvard faculty, and Harvard students. This experience will equip participants with practical techniques they can apply in their respective careers. One participant will have the opportunity to workshop an ongoing issue they are facing in their job with Harvard faculty and students. On successful completion of the case series, participants will receive a Certificate of Completion signed by Harvard faculty.

Who Should Enroll

We are looking for maternal health professionals in the trenches. Those who work day in and day out with mothers and families to improve their health. Nurses, doulas, lactation educators, social workers, public health practitioners, dietitians, midwives and allied health professionals are especially encouraged to apply. No particular degrees or certifications are required, but applicants should not be current students and should have at least 2 years of experience post-training either full- or part-time.


Program Commitment and Dates

Participants should expect a time commitment of approximately 8 to 9 hours over 8 weeks. Applicants must indicate that they can make at least three of the following dates and times:

  •     November 18, 2019 from 3:45-5:15 pm EST
  •     November 25, 2019 from 3:45-5:15 pm EST
  •     December 2, 2019 from 3:45-5:15 pm EST
  •     December 9, 2019 from 3:45-5:15 pm EST

All other class commitments can be scheduled at the participants’ (students’ and professionals’) convenience.

Program Faculty

The case study series is taught by Dr. Henning Tiemeier, Sumner and Esther Feldberg Professor of Maternal and Child Health with assistance from Dr. Farah Qureshi, Postdoctoral Fellow; and Bethany Kotlar, Program Manager for the Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health.

Application Instructions and Important Dates

The application consists of demographic questions, a short statement of interest, a submitted scenario (please see guidelines below), and a short work history or resume.

Applications are due on Friday, October 25, 2019 by 11:59 pm EST. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Jordan Arvayo at jarvayo@hsph.harvard.edu


Scenario Guidelines

The scenario should be a challenging problem you are currently facing or have faced in the past in your work. Scenarios should not have an obvious solution and should require deeper thinking on one or more public health competencies (e.g., ethics, conflict resolution, management, resource allocation, policy or advocacy issues). An ideal scenario will include most of the following:

  1.     Background: What do we need to know about the context of this scenario? Where does it take place? Who are the important players (titles should be submitted in lieu of names)? What happened to lead to this scenario?
  2.     Problem Statement: What is the problem? Why has it become a problem? What has been done to address the problem before? What resources are available to address the problem? What resources are not available?

Scenario Example: “I am a pregnancy and breastfeeding health educator working in the Southeast United States. I give women, their families, and healthcare providers evidence-based information about the risks of exposures (anything from lead to opioids to cough medicine) to fetuses or breastfed babies. The organization I work for, a federally funded nonprofit, is especially interested in reducing the risk of birth defects and other issues caused by prenatal exposure to substances of abuse. All the counseling we do is over the telephone, and the people that call don’t have to give their name, but when I start talking about the risks of certain substances of abuse to women who are using them while pregnant (as gently as I can), they often get so distressed they hang up. Those who do stay on the phone with me talk about how it’s hard to quit, they can’t access treatment, and they are afraid to tell their OB because he or she might report them to children and family services. I can’t reassure them that their OB won’t report, because I have heard of children being taken away even when the woman is in recovery. I understand these women’s concerns and also want to see them get help, but I am frustrated by the lack of treatment facilities and healthcare providers willing to work with substance-dependent women. I want to spread the information I have in a way that’s useful and meaningful to both keep families together and reduce the risk to babies.”

If your scenario is selected, Harvard learning instructors will work with you to develop learning questions for the larger class based on your specific scenario.

If you don’t feel that you have a scenario to share, you can write about a general issue you see in the field of maternal health. Please address a general issue that is pertinent to the work that you do.