Virtual Workshop: Technology to Improve Maternal Health

Three pregnant people looking at a cellular phone screen

This workshop seeks to further advance interdisciplinary collaborations in maternal health technology by bringing together researchers, technology developers, and community partners to identify technology gaps and consider how new technologies can be used to improve maternal health and ultimately treat and/or prevent maternal morbidity and mortality (MMM).


See agenda details below for this virtual workshop.

  • January 18, 2022
  • 12 - 6:30 PM ET
  • Register 

Purpose of Workshop

Rates of MMM in the U.S. continue to rise, with Black, Indigenous, and other people of color facing significantly higher risks than a white birthing person. African American/Black and American Indian/Alaska Natives are two to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to whites. The workshop, titled "Technology to Improve Maternal Health," hosted by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), is a part of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Implementing a Maternal health and PRegnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) initiative, which supports research to reduce preventable causes of maternal deaths and improve health for birthing people before, during, and after delivery.

Over the past few years, developments in point-of-care, imaging, genetic, and machine learning technologies have led to advances in femtech (for female technology), in particular identifying MMM risk and facilitating access to treatments. This includes the identification of biomarkers for biological and behavioral states relevant to disease prevention and identification. Additionally, remote clinical decision support and patient-provider interface tools have gained acceptance and popularity in femtech.

Social determinants of health (SDoH) are the conditions where we are born, live, and work including the risk factors that inherently create and sustain health disparities within the U.S., such as MMM (Healthy People, 2030). SDoH are imperative to consider when developing potential interventions to improve maternal health. Novel technologies translated to consumer and medical products can provide solutions to these problems, increase health equity, and save lives. However, this translation requires an interdisciplinary approach. Small innovative businesses, including those with roots in their communities, are an untapped translational resource for clinical technology development. Collaborations with clinical and academic researchers, industry, business, and community partners may provide sustainable technology translation through NIH small business mechanisms. This gap represents a potential market that could be beneficial for small businesses and the community. The Technology to Improve Maternal Health workshop aims to provide technology landscape analysis, determine challenges of technology translation, and identify insufficient linkages to clinical care innovations.

Overall Goal

This workshop seeks to further advance interdisciplinary collaborations in maternal health technology by bringing together researchers, technology developers, and community partners to identify technology gaps and consider how new technologies can be used to improve maternal health and ultimately treat and/or prevent MMM. To reduce MMM among high-risk populations, we must consider SDoH to understand the needs of the communities serving birthing people and develop low-cost, accessible, technology-based strategies addressing these needs using Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) mechanisms.

Key Objectives

  • Describe societal implications and determinants of inadequate maternal care.
  • Review the state of technology in maternal health and identify gaps and translational challenges.
  • Identify maternal health, clinical, and community care innovations or areas ready for translation.
  • Understand community needs that can be addressed by development, commercialization, and sustainable implementation of technologies. Develop strategies to connect small businesses and collaborate with the community.

Workshop Agenda

12:00 p.m.      Welcome

Bruce J. Tromberg, Ph.D., Director, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)

Janine Austin Clayton, M.D., Director, National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH)

Diana W. Bianchi, M.D., Director, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

12:10 p.m.      Plenary Session

"The Maternal Health Crisis: How Did We Get Here and How Can Technology Help Us"

Elizabeth Howell, M.D., M.P.P., University of Pennsylvania

12:40 p.m.      Panel: Technology

Moderated by Alberto Gandini, Ph.D., M.B.A, Accel Diagnostics


Alberto Gandini, Ph.D., M.B.A., Accel Diagnostics

Shuai (Steve) Xu, M.D., M.Sc., Northwestern University

Alicia Chong Rodriguez, M.A., Bloomer Tech

Kate Ryder, M.Sc., Maven Clinic

Tony Ma, M.S., Benten Technologies

Elizabeth Bailey, M.A., Rhia Ventures

2:10 p.m.        BREAK

2:20 p.m.        Panel: Clinical Outcomes

Moderated by Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis


Carol Levy, M.D., CDCES, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

S. Ananth Karumanchi, M.D., Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Dennis McNamara, M.D., M.S., University of Pittsburgh

Melissa Bauer, D.O., Duke University

Nancy Byatt, D.O., M.S., M.B.A., FACLP,  University of Massachusetts Medical School

Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis

 4:00 p.m.        BREAK      

4:10 p.m.        Facilitated Discussion: Community

Moderated by Joia Crear-Perry, M.D., FACOG, National Birth Equity Collaborative


Tonya L. Corbin, M.D., M.S., M.B.A., Organon

Gerald Harmon, M.D., American Medical Association

Natalie Hernandez, Ph.D., M.P.H., Morehouse School of Medicine

Nathaniel DeNicola, M.D., M.S.H.P., FACOG, Johns Hopkins Medicine, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Monica McLemore, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., University of California San Francisco

Steve Porter, M.D., M.B.A., riskLD, University Hospital Ventures

5:20 p.m.        BREAK

5:30 p.m.       Moderated Networking Sessions

6:30 p.m.       Adjourn

Meeting Materials

The complete program for this workshop can be found here:

Maternal Health Technology Workshop Program Book

The slides used in the plenary presentation by Dr. Howell can be viewed here:

Howell plenary presentation

For some background information, please review the following publications. Both of these articles are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License:

RNA profiles reveal signatures of future health and disease in pregnancy

This study was published in Nature. Authors: Morten Rasmussen, Mitsu Reddy, Rory Nolan, Joan Camunas-Soler, Arkady Khodursky, Nikolai M. Scheller, David E. Cantonwine, Line Engelbrechtsen, Jia Dai Mi, Arup Dutta, Tiffany Brundage, Farooq Siddiqui, Mainou Thao, Elaine P. S. Gee, Johnny La, Courtney Baruch-Gravett, Mark K. Santillan, Saikat Deb, Shaali M. Ame, Said M. Ali, Melanie Adkins, Mark A. DePristo, Manfred Lee, Eugeni Namsaraev, Dorte Jensen Gybel-Brask, Lillian Skibsted, James A. Litch, Donna A. Santillan, Sunil Sazawal, Rachel M. Tribe, James M. Roberts, Maneesh Jain, Estrid Høgdall, Claudia Holzman, Stephen R. Quake, Michal A. Elovitz, and Thomas F. McElrath

Circulating trophoblast cell clusters for early detection of placenta accreta spectrum disorders

This study was published in Nature Communications. Authors: Yalda Afshar, Jiantong Dong, Pan Zhao, Lei Li, Shan Wang, Ryan Y. Zhang, Ceng Zhang, Ophelia Yin, Christina S. Han, Brett D. Einerson, Tania L. Gonzalez, Huirong Zhang, Anqi Zhou, Zhuo Yang, Shih-Jie Chou, Na Sun, Ju Cheng, Henan Zhu, Jing Wang, Tiffany X. Zhang, Yi-Te Lee, Jasmine J. Wang, Pai-Chi Teng, Peng Yang, Dongping Qi, Meiping Zhao, Myung-Shin Sim, Ruilian Zhe, Jeffrey D. Goldstein, John Williams III, Xietong Wang, Qingying Zhang, Lawrence D. Platt, Chang Zou, Margareta D. Pisarska, Hsian-Rong Tseng & Yazhen Zhu

You can find an NIBIB Science Highlight covering this publication here.

Meeting Recordings

(Will be posted in the coming weeks)

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