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MSW Students Hawkinson and Nettey Part of Team that Wins NAM Public Health Case Challenge

The winners of the seventh annual D.C. Public Health Case Challenge were announced at this year’s National Academy of Medicine (NAM) Annual Meeting. The challenge aims to promote interdisciplinary, problem-based learning around a public health issue of importance to the Washington, D.C., community. MSW students and BHWISE Scholars Ava Hawkinson and Brendaline Nettey were members of UMB's winning team.

The challenge topic was “Reducing Health Disparities in Maternal Mortality by Addressing Unmet Health-Related Social Needs.” The teams from D.C.-area universities — each composed of four to six members from at least three disciplines — were given two weeks to develop a solution to this complex problem with a hypothetical $3 million budget to be used during a five-year span. The teams presented their solutions to a panel of expert judges, and teams were evaluated on the interdisciplinary nature of their response, feasibility of implementation, creativity, and practicality.

The 2019 Grand Prize winner was the team from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Team members Shaikh Afaq, Meron Assefa, Ava Hawkinson, Brendaline Nettey, Christopher Reed, and Stephanie Sanchez (faculty advisor: Greg Carey) proposed a solution titled “D.C. P.O.W.E.R.” The team described a multilevel intervention creating a network of doulas, community health workers, and peer community coaches to promote women’s health in areas where access to maternal care is limited or not fully utilized. As part of their proposal, community organizers would build a coalition of community members, leaders, and providers to mobilize around policy changes in the D.C. area, including lobbying for passage of the Maternal Health Care Improvement and Expansion Act, reimbursement of birth doula services from Medicaid and private payers, and paid maternity/paternity leave.

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