New Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Program grant will serve underrepresented undergrads at Berkeley Public Health

According to a survey conducted by the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) workforce is an aging demographic. In 2017, less than 10% of MCH professionals were under 30, and nearly three quarters were over the age of 40. Further, Latino and Asian Americans represent only 8% and 3% of the MCH workforce respectively; Native American/Pacific Islanders, just 1%. African Americans made up 15% of the workforce.

To boost the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds in the MCH field and improve conduits to the MCH workforce, UC Berkeley’s Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health (MCAH) Program at the School of Public Health has been awarded the MCH Leadership, Education, and Advancement in Undergraduate Pathways (LEAP) Training Program grant through the Maternal and Child Health Bureau within the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. 

The five-year competitive grant, set to launch in June 2021, will create a new undergraduate MCAH area of concentration at Berkeley Public Health, and will support the school in developing the next generation of leaders equipped to eliminate MCAH health inequities such as disparities in maternal and infant mortality and preterm birth between population groups.  

The program will engage underrepresented undergraduate students through MCAH events and training opportunities, providing LEAP Fellows with advanced research training and professional development skills. It will also matriculate Advanced LEAP Scholars through a two-year program of coursework, research fellowships, summer internships, and faculty mentoring.  Advanced LEAP Scholars will receive support to apply to graduate programs or to enter the MCAH workforce directly.

The program’s activities will be conducted in collaboration with academic centers, scholar programs, and student groups serving diverse and underrepresented students, including UCSF’s academic medical school and Leadership and Education in Adolescent Health program. Interdisciplinary community partners, local and state MCAH agencies, Title V programs, and training entities will be key partners. The program will also partner with UC Berkeley centers and programs, including the Wallace Center for Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, the Public Health Nutrition program, and Innovations for Youth’s YES undergraduate mentorship program. 

Dr. Julianna Deardorff, program head for Berkeley Public Health’s Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Program and the Director of the UC Berkeley Center of Excellence in MCAH, will serve as project director for the grant.  

I am thrilled that we can provide infrastructure and support to create a positive and supportive environment for our brilliant and diverse undergrad students to enhance the MCAH profession,”  says Deardorff. 

Cassondra Marshall, alumni of Berkeley Public Health’s DrPH program and assistant professor of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, will serve as the new program’s associate director. 

Says Marshall, “The LEAP program is truly an incredible opportunity! Building on our strengths in training graduate students, I am excited that we will be able to support undergraduate students in learning about MCAH and, hopefully, launching their career path in public health. The focus on underrepresented students is critical as there is a great need to diversify the MCH workforce.”