Tulane University


Name of Program:

Tulane University Maternal and Child Health Leadership Training Program

Contact Information

Carolyn C. Johnson, PhD, Director
Tel. (504) 988-4068
Shokufeh Ramirez, MPH Program Manager
Tel. (504) 988-3539

Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
1440 Canal Street, Suite 2301
New Orleans, LA 70112


Mission of the Program:

The Maternal and Child Health Leadership Training Program seeks to improve the health of women, infants, children, youth and their families, in accordance with the federal government’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Encouraging the development of both current and future leaders in the maternal and child health field, the program stresses cultural competency and diversity while enhancing the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of students and professionals in Louisiana. Program goals include:

  • Developing and providing innovative leadership and career development training for students, public health professionals, and faculty
  • Integrating key principles of public health practice into teaching, research and service
  • Conducting research and research training
  • Strengthening partnerships with the community and maternal and child health agencies through mutually beneficial collaborations

Degrees and Certificates Offered:

MPH, PhD, DrPH, Certificate in MCH

Non-degree Training Opportunities & Continuing Education:

  • Past the Degree series, exposing current students to possible career options
  • Communication seminar series, addressing various types of communication used in MCH
  • Satellite broadcasts and webinars on MCH topics
  • Monitoring and Evaluation in MCH – online asynchronous series, and face-to-face sessions

Examples of Current Research:

  • Under the skin: The biological impact of community and family violence in children – To enhance the understanding of biological mechanisms connecting early adversity and negative health, we examine the association between community and family violence and telomere length in children. These specific exposures were selected due to their established links with negative health consequences across the life-course. Telomere length, from buccal cell DNA, is a molecular biomarker of adversity and allostatic load that is detectable in childhood. The present results extend previous studies by demonstrating that telomeres are sensitive to adversity within the overarching family domain. These findings suggest that the family ecology may be an important target for interventions to reduce the biological impact of adversity in the lives of children.
  • Supporting School Employees who Breastfeed: A Project of the Louisiana Workplace Breastfeeding Support Program – Louisiana has one of the lowest percentages of women breastfeeding at 6 months. Support from a mother’s employer, along with time and space to pump at work, is essential in addressing the issue of breastfeeding duration. Louisiana is the first state to pass legislation that addresses provisions for lactating mothers who work in the school setting. The Louisiana Workplace Breastfeeding Support Program is working to build capacity for schools to better support employees who breastfeed and identify barriers that the program can address. Continued workplace lactation support, especially in workplaces that have non-traditional work environments like schools, has the potential to address disparities in breastfeeding duration rates in our state.
  • Factors Associated with Student Use of School-Based Salad Bar – Childhood obesity is a major public health issue in the United States. Fruit and vegetable consumption has been examined as one component of childhood obesity.  School-based salad bars have been proposed as a mechanism for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in youth.  The aim of this study was to examine factors (demographics, knowledge, preferences, and social support) associated with use of a school-based salad bar. In a preliminary analysis, this study determined several factors salient to salad bar usage.  Findings from this research will help guide future interventions aimed at increasing usage of salad bars in school settings.
  • Corporal punishment of children: A norm worth challenging – Violence prevention professionals often acknowledge both the importance and the challenge of changing prevalent social norms that promote violence. Of course, when social norms that bring even minor to moderate risk to large populations are challenged, public health approaches can have a large impact on health.  Corporal punishment of children is such a norm, as it is a strong risk factor for child physical abuse, increased childhood aggression, and has been linked with poorer mental and physical health outcomes.  Most child physical abuse starts out as “normative” child discipline.  And use of corporal punishment teaches children that violence is an acceptable way to respond to conflict.  Given the risks associated with corporal punishment and its high prevalence, reducing use of corporal punishment could lead to a reduction in more injurious forms of violence as well. Challenges to planning and implementing relevant strategies will be discussed.
  • A Qualitative Exploration of African American Teens’ Definitions and Understanding of Teen Dating Violence – Teen dating violence is a serious problem disproportionately affecting African American teens. However, little is known about how these teens define or perceive dating violence. Male and female African American teens aged 13-18 were recruited from two high schools in a Southern U.S. city. Four categories of dating violence were identified: physical; sexual; emotional/psychological/verbal; and cyber. Teens’ definitions of dating violence may not match researchers’ definitions and appear to be contested.  Research and program needs to explore teen understanding of violence to more accurately bridge the gap between researchers, program and teens.
  • Sex Matters: Impact of Neighborhood Physical and Social Environments on Adolescent Physical Activity and Obesity – Increasing evidence suggests that a neighborhood’s social and physical environment can and does affect males and females differently. We examined the influence of neighborhood characteristics on health, specifically whether girls’ physical activity and obesity levels may be more affected by the neighborhood environment than boys’. Girls living in neighborhoods with elevated crime risk were less likely to engage in vigorous to moderate weekly physical activity and more likely to be obese compared to girls living in neighborhoods with lower crime risk. However, crime risk was not associated with physical activity or obesity among boys.
  • Verbal intimate partner violence victimization and condom/contraceptive use among African American teen women: Testing the mediating role of relationship power and depressive symptoms – African American teenage women experience high rates of unintended pregnancy and STIs. Although physical intimate partner violence victimization (IPV) has been associated with less consistent condom/contraceptive use, whether verbal victimization affects safer sex practices is understudied. Preliminary baseline data from an unintended pregnancy prevention RCT targeting 18-19 year old African American women were analyzed; respondents reported on sexual partnerships that occurred in the prior three months. Verbal IPV is associated with condom use inconsistency.  Future analyses should explore other mechanisms by which verbal victimization affects condom use.

Partnerships & Collaborations:

Faculty and staff have a wide range of collaborations and partnerships with State Title V and other MCH programs. Examples include an action learning collaborative on the AMCHP Lifecourse Metrics project, Fit NOLA work, the KidsWalk Coalition, and research on policies and practices that have contributed to current racial health disparities. Trainees volunteer with community organizations to provide service to the organization and learn more about working in maternal and child health, helping them gain clarity about their career paths.

All of our Master of Public Health students are required to complete a 300-hour internship experience, known as a practicum. Faculty and staff are working to improve this experience for both the students and their community internship hosts through workshop intended for hosts and prospective hosts, addressing their role, that of students, mentoring, and negotiating a successful working relationship.

Faculty, staff, alumni, and students of the training program have played instrumental roles in several breastfeeding policy-related programs, including:

  • Establishing a workplace lactation program at a large university in New Orleans to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates and serve as a role model for other workplaces; and promoting breastfeeding support in workplaces, through the New Orleans Louisiana Breastfeeding Support Program, with the goal of informing employers about the new Breastfeeding Mothers’ section of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and building capacity to comply with it by providing them with information and tools to establish workplace lactation programs.