Goals and Objectives:
Adverse birth outcomes, such as preterm births and low birth weight babies, and other health problems of women, infants, and children are due, in part, to nutrition-related factors, such as obesity, poor diets, and low breastfeeding rates, as well as inadequate physical activity and prenatal care. These problems are seen throughout the US, with higher rates among Black and Hispanic populations, and are particularly bad in the South and in Louisiana, which ranked as the least healthy state for women, infants, and children. There is a need for additional Maternal and Child Health (MCH) nutrition professionals to address these problems because the current workforce is shrinking. Future leaders in MCH nutrition need to be equipped to address the structural inequities that cause health issues among MCH populations and should more closely reflect the diversity among them. There is also a need for continuing education and technical assistance for the current workforce Project Services and Activities: Our overall purpose is to expand and strengthen the MCH nutrition workforce so as to improve the nutritional health status of women, infants, children, youth, and families in Louisiana and the US. We do this through sets of objectives and activities designed to meet three goals: (1) educate a diverse group of future MCH nutrition leaders with the competencies to address current and emerging nutrition problems among women, children, and their families; (2) provide continuing education, consultation, technical assistance, and educational resources to professionals serving this population; and (3) collaborate with other HRSA-funded MCH Nutrition grantees and with other HRSA-supported projects to promote enhanced training of current and future MCH nutritionists. We will accomplish the first goal through our Master of Public Health (MPH) Nutrition Program, specifically the MCH Nutrition Leadership Track. Our interdisciplinary education incorporates a food systems approach into the training of future nutrition and health professionals. It combines rigorous academics with innovative training opportunities in clinic and community settings that focus on the importance of food choice and its determinants, as a key to improving nutritional outcomes. In addition to 46 credits of coursework, our 2-year program includes a 200-hour practicum, an 80-hour research experience, three 20-hour observational rotations, teaching experience, communication at a professional meeting, and ongoing trainee meetings to develop leadership competencies. The second goal is accomplished by conducting an intensive course, a webinar, and a large-scale networking event on an annual basis, as well as providing direct technical assistance and consultation to our partners, including Title V and other governmental agencies, and state and local community organizations that serve women, children, and their families. The third goal is accomplished through continued collaboration with other MCH Nutrition grantees and other HRSA-supported projects to provide online exchanges across programs, support lectures and continuing education for current practitioners, and engage and disseminate research and best-practices to enhance MCH nutrition leadership. A comprehensive evaluation plan, including process, outcome, and impact evaluations is used to measure progress towards meeting all goals and objectives.