Concentrating Efforts to Reduce Disparities in Maternal and Infant Health in the MS Delta

infantMaternal mortality in the United States is higher than in peer nations and has increased in recent years. There is increased recognition of a need to focus on maternal and infant health as birthing units are closing across the nation and large racial and geographic inequities in care and outcomes persist. The Mississippi Delta Partnership in Public Health (MDPPH), in collaboration with the Delta Directions Consortium, Harvard Law School, and the Mississippi State Department of Health, are hosting a 1/2 day in-person exploratory workshop focused on maternal and infant health in the Mississippi Delta region.


This exploratory workshop will focus on three themes generated by MCH partners:

  1. Maternal mortality & morbidity (i.e. physical and mental health)
  2. Infant mortality & morbidity prevention, e.g. safe sleep
  3. Improving access to care and quality of healthcare services (i.e. examining SDH needs including geographic and demographic context, population change of MS Delta region with population shrinkage (out migration), population aging, and taking into account discrimination, trauma informed care, respectful maternal care)

This workshop will increase awareness of the various efforts, issues, and progress related to disparities in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity in the MS Delta area. The structure will facilitate partners in exploring the potential for additional projects or expansion of existing projects with other attendees.

To this end, attendees at the exploratory workshop in September will brainstorm viable projects within each of the three themes.

At a later date, there will be a follow-up meeting in Mississippi that will focus on taking one of the early-stage ideas from the September meeting and developing it further toward a specific outcome: a publication, a grant application, a course curriculum, policy recommendations, or a program, etc…


The exploratory workshop will invite 20-22 leading researchers, local policy experts and clinicians, community partners and leaders, and graduate students.


The exploratory workshop will be hosted in Boston, MA at Harvard Countway Library, Minot Room, 695 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115


The exploratory workshop will be held on September 8, 2022, 8:00am – 2:00pm EST.


½ Day In-Person Workshop

The meeting will begin with an opening panel to discuss what is effective and ineffective, and lessons learned from current projects in the Delta. The attendees will then break into the three thematic groups.


Opening Remarks | John J. Green, PhD
Director of the Southern Rural Development Center

Dr. John GreenJohn J. Green, PhD, is Director of the Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC), an organization focused on building capacity among the 30 Land-Grant institutions located in the region. The SRDC is one of four Regional Rural Development Centers in the country. Dr. Green also serves as Professor in the Mississippi State University (MSU) Dept. of Agricultural Economics and Affiliated Faculty in the Dept. of Sociology. He received his BA in Political Science and MS in Sociology from MSU, followed by his PhD in Rural Sociology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. His areas of interest include: regional approaches to socioeconomic development, especially in the Southern Region and sub-regions; connections between development and health across the life course; use of data on population change to inform public policy and outreach and Extension efforts; and models for fostering relationships across social, institutional, and state boundaries. Dr. Green is the incoming President (August 2022-2023) of the Rural Sociological Society and Editor of the Journal of Rural Social Sciences with the Southern Rural Sociological Association. He has long been a coordinating member of the Delta Directions Consortium, a multi-state and multi-institutional network focused on health and economic renewal.

Opening Remarks | Emily Broad Leib, JD
Director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation

Emily Broad LeibEmily Broad Leib is a Clinical Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, the nation’s first law school clinic devoted to providing legal and policy solutions to the health, economic, and environmental challenges facing our food system. She is also Deputy Director of Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation. Working directly with clients and communities, Broad Leib champions community-led food system change, reduction in food waste, food security and access to healthy foods, and equity and sustainability in food production. Her scholarly work has been published in California Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, the Harvard Law & Policy Review, the Food & Drug Law Journal, and the Journal of Food Law & Policy, among others.  A recognized leader in the field, Broad Leib’s work has been covered by The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, The Guardian, TIME, Politico, and The Washington Post. She also made appearances on CBS This Morning, CNN, The Today Show, and MSNBC.

Before joining Harvard Law School’s faculty, Broad Leib spent two years in Clarksdale, Mississippi as the Joint Harvard Law School/Mississippi State University Delta Fellow. She served as the Director of the Delta Directions Consortium, a group of university and foundation leaders dedicated to improving public health and fostering economic development in the Delta. She continues to serve as the faculty supervisor for the Harvard Mississippi Delta Project. Broad Leib received her B.A. from Columbia University and her J.D. from Harvard Law School, cum laude.

Opening Remarks | Nakeitra Burse, PhD
CEO | Principal Strategist of Six Dimensions

Dr. Nakeitra BurseDr. Nakeitra L. Burse, is the Owner/CEO of Six Dimensions, a certified woman owned, minority owned public health research, development and practice company. Dr. Burse has been a servant in the field of public health for over twelve years. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences and Master’s in Health Education Health Promotion, both from Mississippi State University. She also holds a doctorate in Public Health from Jackson State University.

Dr. Burse is dedicated to understanding the impact of systems on the health of communities. Her work is centered around health equity and social justice issues and improving maternal health outcomes for Black women. Dr. Burse is the Executive Producer of the short documentary, Laboring with Hope. The film highlights the issues of maternal morbidity and mortality among Black women. Laboring with Hope is being used as a call to action to implement, support, and uplift strategies that aim to improve maternal health and birth outcomes.

Dr. Burse is currently a Leader in the 4th Cohort of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Leaders Program. In 2019, she was named one of Mississippi’s 50 Leading Business Women. In 2020, she received the Candace Award for Health from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Central, MS Chapter. Dr. Burse’s work has been featured in a variety of settings, including Soledad O’Brien’s Disrupt and Dismantle series on BET, the Kelly Clarkson Show and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

She is married to Dr. Creston Burse and they have two rambunctious boys, Chandler and Cooper.


Welcome Remarks | Michelle Williams, ScD
Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Co Host | Bizu Gelaye, PhD
Program Director, Mississippi Delta Partnership in Public Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Co Host | Henning Tiemeier, PhD
Esther Feldberg Chair of Maternal and Child Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Full agenda available here.