Working Together for Health Equity: How a Multidisciplinary, Community- Engaged Partnership Reframed Our Understandings of Pittsburgh’s Maternal-Child Health Crisis


  • Cathleen J. Appelt
  • Andrew T. Simpson
  • Jessica A. Devido
  • Sarah Greenwald
  • Brittany Urban


From the unequal toll exacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to the brutal murder of George Floyd, the events of 2020 vividly demonstrated the catastrophic consequences of structural racism in the United States. As we consider what the future holds on the many fronts of the struggle for racial justice, we reexamine the ongoing maternal-child health (MCH) crisis in the United States by focusing on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Black families are affected at an even more alarming rate. We conducted multidisciplinary research to support our community partners’ proposal to initiate an MCH-related vocational program for adolescent girls in their community. Our partners’ creative assets–based approach to community emphasized agency, empowerment, and the reconnection of young Black women to a shared cultural history of maternal health wisdom (midwifery). In this paper we share how community engagement has helped us to reframe maternal-child health inequality as a social problem. We reflect critically on current academic explanations, assess empirical data at the national and local levels, and issue a broader call for action by academics, universities, and policymakers for which the first critical step is to rethink common assumptions about health.