Innovating Maternal and Child Health: Incentive Prizes to Improve Early Childhood Development

Ashley Darcy Mahoney, Natalie Brito, Melissa Baralt, Jessie Buerlein, Sandeep Patel, Michael Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Protecting and advancing maternal and child health is a critical goal to both society and to the economy, given that their health is a predictor of the next generation’s health. Yet despite this recognition, many of the communities aiming to improve maternal and child health still problem-solve in silos: age silos, disease silos, organizational silos, disciplinary silos, data silos, and communication silos, often created or exacerbated by the disconnected approaches to research, funding, and reporting. These silos limit discovery and spread of new solutions to important maternal and child health problems. Description: In this paper, we will discuss federal incentive prizes as a tool to break down silos and to engineer cognitive diversity and transdisciplinary collaboration. Assessment: In 2018, the United States Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau (HRSA MCHB) launched the “Maternal and Child Health Bureau Grand Challenges,” a suite of four prize competitions totaling $1.5 million addressing critical issues in maternal and child health. These included federal challenges designed to (1) prevent childhood obesity in low-income communities, (2) improve the remote monitoring of pregnancy, (3) improve care coordination and planning for children with special health care needs, and (4) prevent opioid misuse among pregnant women and new mothers. Conclusion: The ability to incentivize innovation to address critical public health issues cannot rest in the private sector alone. Complementing other investments, the Challenge mechanism’s power to catalyze the rapid development of innovative solutions can improve how we address barriers to achieve optimal maternal and child health for the families that we serve.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1508-1515
Number of pages8
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Innovation
  • Maternal child health
  • Prize challenge
  • Public private partnership

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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