New March of Dimes Research Center for Advancing Maternal Health Equity Aims to Close Health Equity Gap, Improve Outcomes

January 3, 2023

Organization Marks 85th Year With Continued Commitment to Address Disparities

Welcomes New Advocates Into Its Ranks

85 Logo

January 3, 2023 (Arlington, VA) – As it marks its 85th birthday today and launches a year-long anniversary celebration, March of Dimes, the leading organization fighting for the health of all moms and babies, announces the launch of the inaugural March of Dimes Research Center for Advancing Maternal Health Equity. The new Center, based at the University of Pennsylvania, will address poor health outcomes and longstanding racial disparities that make the U.S. among the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth. Concurrently, March of Dimes is growing its Celebrity Advocate Council (CAC) with two new leaders committed to advancing equitable health outcomes.

March of Dimes has been at the forefront of the fight for health equity for decades and its latest Report Card revealed persistent racial disparities across maternal and infant health measures, most significantly among Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native families. In the U.S., an average of two women die every day from pregnancy-related causes and two babies die every hour – a crisis that is fueled by many factors, including structural racism, poor maternal health and socio-economic status.

"As this crisis becomes increasingly dire for our most vulnerable, it is critical we explore new avenues to address these challenges with real action,” said Dr. Emre Seli, Chief Scientific Officer at March of Dimes. “We are excited to expand the breakthrough, translational research model from our Prematurity Research Centers to a new focus aimed at better understanding the causes of health inequities as well as piloting therapeutic approaches to address these issues.”

The Center will work collaboratively with researchers from March of Dimes Prematurity Research Centers, as well as experts from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI). It will launch under the leadership of Dr. Elizabeth A. Howell, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania, and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee and Principal Investigator for the new Center. Through scientific research and technology development, the Center will address disparities that underlie maternal morbidities and stress that contribute to poor outcomes. The research agenda will include, in part, characterizing and correlating racial disparities, identifying new biomarkers to better detect morbidities and using technology to increase access to care and promote early interventions.

“The latest key health indicators show the U.S. has not moved the needle on maternal health and equity and in fact, things are getting worse,” said March of Dimes Board of Trustees Chair Sharon Mills Higgins. “For 85 years, we have helped millions of families lead healthier lives by addressing some of the biggest health issues facing our families. We will continue to build on that legacy and work to reverse these trends so every mom and baby has the best possible start.”

Expanded Celebrity Advocate Council  
The organization’s successes over the decades are thanks in large part to the time, energy and passion of its supporters across the country who are committed to improve health outcomes for families. The CAC is among the many ways that leaders from the entertainment and sports industries are fighting for the health of all moms and babies.  

March of Dimes is pleased to welcome comedian, activist and maternal mental health advocate Angelina Spicer and singer and actress Ana Isabelle to the Council as its newest members.   

Spicer, a longtime supporter of March of Dimes, has been an outspoken advocate for maternal mental health after her diagnosis and hospitalization of postpartum depression. Most recently, Spicer participated in a media event in Washington, DC with maternal and infant health experts, including Dr. Howell, to discuss the March of Dimes Report Card and to share her personal story. Isabelle recently worked with Steven Spielberg in the remake of “West Side Story” and served as the “godmother” of March of Dimes Puerto Rico’s March for Babies to raise awareness about premature births. She also recently represented March of Dimes Puerto Rico during her appearances on Univision’s “Mira Quién Baila” dance competition show.  

Spicer and Isabelle join Ally Brooke, Allyson Felix, Andrew and Shawn Johnson East, Jade Roper-Tolbert, Nick Lachey, Porsha Williams, Rob Huebel, Tatyana Ali, and Whitney Port as members of the Council.

MoD Celebrity Advocate Council New Members

Proud History

The legacy of March of Dimes is one that’s rooted in deep history, as well the human drive to help families in need. Established in 1938 as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, the organization funded critical research that led to the polio vaccine and over the decades evolved to focus on birth defects prevention and ending preventable maternal and infant deaths and illnesses. Since its inception, March of Dimes has tackled some of the biggest health challenges facing our country by convening families, healthcare professionals, policymakers, community partners, donors, volunteers, advocates and many others, with a focus on those who bear the greatest burden of unjust health outcomes. To close the health equity gap, March of Dimes has launched initiatives across the organization, including mobilizing partners through the Mom and Baby Action Network and addressing the underlying challenges impacting families through local Collective Impact initiatives in nine communities.

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every family can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 85-year legacy, we support every pregnant person and every family. To learn more about March of Dimes, please visit