Lab investigates health and birth outcomes of Black women

Students focus on community research to reduce racial inequities in maternal health

Tuesday, Oct 06, 2020 • Elizabeth Couch :

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Kyrah Brown, assistant professor of public health in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

A research lab at The University of Texas at Arlington uses a combination of community-based participatory methods, secondary data analysis and evaluation science to investigate social and health system factors that disproportionately impact the health and birth outcomes of Black women.

Led by Kyrah Brown, assistant professor of public health in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Equity Lab’s primary research focus is to investigate the individual-, community- and systems-level factors that shape women’s health and birth outcomes. The lab, which seeks to understand how those complex interactions can be addressed to reduce racial disparities, also provides a training ground for UTA undergraduate and graduate students to hone their skills and improve their job prospects.

“Persistent racial and social inequities in maternal and child health remain a significant public health issue,” Brown said. “These inequities are driven largely by the conditions in which women are born, grow, live, work and age. Black women, in particular, tend to experience higher rates of preventable chronic health conditions, maternal health complications and adverse birth outcomes compared to other racial groups.” 

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Tamaya Bailey, graduate student in the School of Social Work.

Tamaya Bailey, a graduate student in the School of Social Work, joined Brown’s lab in 2019. Bailey said she’s always had a passion for health care, mental health awareness and community health.

While completing her undergraduate studies, Bailey became interested in research related to health disparities. She then met Brown at a networking event, where she was first introduced to the MCH Equity lab.

Bailey recently accepted a position at Prism Health of North Texas as a behavioral intervention specialist. She expects to receive her master’s degree in December.

“I understood Dr. Brown’s background was centered on minority women and infant and maternal health,” said Bailey, a U.S. Air Force veteran. “Being a part of the MCH Equity lab helps me further understand health disparities and gain research experience that will benefit me both in the workforce and as I pursue a doctoral degree in social work.”

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Claudy Jean Pierre, graduate public health student.

Claudy Jean Pierre, a graduate public health student, also came to the MCH Equity lab in 2019 as an undergraduate. He is studying to become a medical epidemiologist.

“A few of my friends came to UTA before I did and convinced me this was the place to be,” Jean Pierre said. “After my arrival, I quickly discovered the level of dedication and commitment professors show their students.”

UTA sets up students for success by providing research opportunities, networking events and mentorships, Jean Pierre said. He recently accepted a position at Parkland Hospital’s Healthy Start Program as a preconception peer educator. He expects to receive his master’s degree in public health in December of 2021.

“Dr. Brown, Dr. Becky Garner and Dr. Erin Carlson are great at pushing students to participate in labs and research opportunities to prepare us to enter the workforce as prepared as possible,” he said.

UTA’s Master of Public Health degree is a student-centered, practice-focused program for the working professional who builds their skills and enhances their practice. The program teaches applied skills used in real-world public health practice by integrating classroom learning with real-life community-based projects.

The Master of Social Work degree program is one of the broadest, most versatile degree programs available. Graduates are leading clinical practitioners, program administrators and managers, consultants, educators and researchers.

“These students’ stories are important because they show how student involvement in community-based research can lead to job opportunities and professional relationships that will both benefit the community and propel their careers,” Brown said.