About Continuing Strides Keynote Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH

Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH has more than two decades of experience implementing strategies and evidence-based interventions to improve the health and wellness of women and infants. She has a keen interest in improving systems that contribute to missed opportunities for women, babies, and families and has produced several peer-reviewed publications on the topic. As the CDC Senior Advisor to the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative, Dr. Verbiest has led a group of over 100 stakeholders in a public private partnership aimed at improving the health of young adults prior to pregnancy. Her recent experience with the 4th Trimester PCORI project has provided Dr. Verbiest with valuable knowledge in designing participatory research projects with postpartum women to understand their unmet needs.

Dr. Verbiest’s current project focuses on Collaborative Innovation and Improvement Networks (CoIIN) to Reduce Infant Mortality is built on the application of human centered design thinking to improve the well woman visit. As the executive director of the Center for Maternal and Infant Health, she coordinates a team of health care professionals, researchers, and program managers who serve families with infants who are medically fragile and coordinate prevention programs to improve health across the state. As a social worker, Dr. Verbiest has a firm commitment to listening to the voices of
women.

Women’s health from preconception through postpartum has often been overlooked and under-researched. Recently, however, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of a woman’s preconception and postpartum health on women’s future wellbeing and infant health. A large portion of Dr. Verbiest’s work has focused on promoting maternal postpartum health in particular studying how the various systems that women in the postpartum period could be changed to better fit the needs of postpartum women. Specifically, she and her team have found that flexible, integrated health care services and mother-centered care are key factors in promoting women’s health. Several organizational and policy recommendations were drafted as a result of these findings.

In addition to studying the systems that interact with postpartum women, Dr. Verbiest has had the opportunity to research the unmet needs of postpartum women and their barriers to health care. The research which Dr. Verbiest has conducted has also covered in depth analysis of the current healthcare system and its impact on women’s health. This research has focused on identifying how to advance and improve healthcare systems to better serve the needs of women.

Dr. Verbiest has held several honorable positions, including the Fellow, William Friday Fellowship on Human Relations, Wildacres Leadership Initiative (WLI) in 2005, Board Member, William Friday Fellowship on Human Relations, WLI in 2015, and John A. Tate Early Career Scholars for Children in Need Distinguished Professorship in 2018.

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