Welcome to the inaugural issue of the Mary Amelia Douglas-Whited Community Women’s Health Education Center’s Newsletter – MAC Messenger! Some of you will remember our previous newsletter, The Mary Amelia Messenger, published through 2010. We are excited to revive our newsletter tradition as a way of extending our outreach to Women’s Center alumnae, faculty, partners, and supporters. In this opening letter I want to share a few highlights from recent years and tell you about some of our current activities.
I was honored to join the Center in 2010, eager to dig in and do the hard but rewarding work of taking us to the next phase as we grow to meet the needs of the community and to adapt to changes in the public health environment. The legacy left by my predecessor, Dr. Jeanette Magnus, is a solid foundation from which to launch some dynamic new directions while continuing to build on established strengths. We continue our strong community education and outreach programs, with an increased emphasis on the social determinants of health and health equity. We have also incorporated components of the Tulane-Xavier Center of Excellence on Women’s Health (TUXCOE), including interdisciplinary women’s health research as well as advocacy, leadership and professional education opportunities through community networks and partnerships. Our programs focus on removing social and physical environmental barriers to better health for women and their families, and include outreach, education, research and technical assistance to build capacity of partners working to improve the lives of women. We want to ensure that programs aimed at women’s health are sustainable, and are working.
With respect to outreach and advocacy programs, we have expanded our breastfeeding support programs as well as training for those who work with women and children. Our Workplace Breastfeeding Support Program now includes training and support for childcare centers, in partnership with Agenda for Children and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. We are about to launch our Baptist Community Ministries social marketing campaign for breastfeeding promotion and have partnered with the Greater New Orleans Breastfeeding Coalition on a local media campaign to promote awareness of the new workplace lactation requirements. While our breastfeeding support programs remain strong, we are also excited about our new projects. For example, our adolescent health initiatives include coordination of a local coalition-the Landry-Walker High School Health Collaborative or LWHSHC-where we hope to launch our Public Health Ambassador (PHA) Program this fall. We have also incorporated two new projects that will become routine activities of the Center – 1) a needs assessment of the health status of women and girls in New Orleans, conducted in partnership with the Newcomb College Institute, the New Orleans City Health Department and the Louisiana Public Health Institute and 2) a revival of the Report on Bills Affecting Women, conducted in partnership with the Department of Health and Hospital’s Office of Women’s Health Policy. Stay tuned!
We are thrilled about our new communications platforms, including our new website and other social media activity, as well as our Knowledge to Practice Training Program which will available online in its entirety this fall as well as through downloadable toolkits and train-the-trainer sessions. We are also excited to have the South Central Public Health Partnership agree to feature our tutorials on their training website. Our Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Epidemiology Doctoral Training Program is now housed within the Center. We are excited about the new program that has a focus on social determinants of health and Life Course Theory and continues to build an MCH epidemiology base to support our local and state MCH partners. We have had a wonderful series of community and academic lectureships as part of our Jane Wilson Smith Lectureship Series and will continue the tradition, kicking off this fall with Dr. Paula Braveman in a combined Tulane School of Public Health and School of Medicine lecture.
We are particularly enthused about the exponential growth of our interdisciplinary research efforts. Research at the center will now be included in a new transdiciplinary research cluster that includes faculty from many schools across the University, all united by diverse research that aims to reduce health disparities and inequities from multiple levels-from genes to neighborhoods and beyond. Our research programs at the Center focus on neighborhood as well as interpersonal stressors and their impact on maternal and child health outcomes. Much of our work examines pathways through which the environment (e.g., neighborhood social disorder) and the experienced environment (e.g., perceived discrimination) ‘get under the skin’ to alter health trajectories. The Center will play a primary role within the cluster to not only aid in continuous communication and translation of research but to also strengthen our community-engaged research efforts. We are committed to the translation of research and theory into action and look forward to this movement in the upcoming years!
The most exciting item in the works is that this year marks our 10th Anniversary, and our intention is not just to celebrate the success of the past 10 years but to leverage this momentous occasion to get the word out about the Mary Amelia Women’s Center and its transformative programs. We are enthusiastic about the continuing and planned activities for the upcoming year and are indebted to The Frost Foundation, Ltd. for its support and guidance. And most importantly, none of these advances would have been possible without all the hard work and dedication of our amazing and dedicated staff and students who have helped to build such an active and important organization for the future of women’s health.
I am privileged to be a part of the organization at this time and am confident that together we will create brighter futures for women, their families, and our community for many years.
Katherine P. Theall, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences
Cecile Usdin Professorship in Women’s Health
Director, Mary Amelia Women’s Center