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MCH Leaders in the Southeast: Louisiana

Our other featured leader from Louisiana is Joan Wightkin, DrPH, Assistant Professor, Department of Community and Behavioral Health at Louisiana State University-School of Public Health and she’s the Coordinator of the Inter-pregnancy Care-Birth Outcomes Project.

How long have you been in your current position?

I’ve been the Coordinator of the Inter-pregnancy Care with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals’ Birth Outcome Initiative for one year.

What is your favorite thing/task/part of your work?

After serving as Louisiana’s Title V-Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Director for 26 years addressing the vast health needs of reproductive age women, infants and children, I enjoy focusing on one very important period of a woman’s life course: inter-pregnancy.  In the latter part of my time as MCH Director, we began to shift our women’s health focus from the prenatal period to include pre/inter-conception. My current role brings me closer to the primary care providers and Healthy Start case managers who are the backbone of our inter-pregnancy care (IPC) project. Linking primary care medical providers with Healthy Start case managers adds a strong focus on the social determinants of health.  I am also closely involved in the evaluation of our IPC project.  It’s satisfying to move from MCH system- building at the state level, to system-building in the New Orleans community where I live.

What is your biggest challenge?

Showing improvements in the physical and psychosocial health of our target population of high risk women who recently delivered a preterm or low birth weight baby through our intervention is our biggest challenge and goal.

Why are you involved in Every Woman Southeast?

It’s exciting to be connected to 8 other states that face similar challenges in addressing the health of women. Learning from those states that have had successes and documented improved outcomes is an important way to help Louisiana’s women and families.  I especially enjoy the focus on consumers and clinical practice and learning from such a dedicated group of professionals.

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