Mpower: Empowering mothers for health

We are an international team of researchers passionate about improving the lives of mothers and children by breaking down barriers to health care. Our research focuses on improving maternal health literacy (MHL) by empowering mothers to navigate health care systems, access resources, and make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Ultimately, we aim to promote health literacy and empower women as a global strategy to reduce non-communicable diseases, particularly among women living in poverty.

According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality, health literacy is increasingly recognized as a key determinant of health with growing evidence that lower health literacy is independently associated with higher rates of morbidity and mortality, poorer health knowledge, greater medication errors and higher hospitalization rates. Further, health literacy levels are lowest among socially disadvantaged groups, the same populations with higher preventable non-communicable disease rates and greater difficulties in accessing health services and managing their health conditions. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified improving health literacy as a key strategy for improving the health of disadvantaged populations and tackling health inequalities in developed and developing countries.

Despite the importance of health literacy, few studies have examined MHL specifically; fewer still have focused on skill development or empowerment of women in poverty. This project is designed to develop a long-term and sustainable research plan to fill these gaps and is part of a five-stage approach to develop a universal research strategy to promote health literacy in parents and empower women globally. Moreover, this project introduces an innovative community-based participatory method to the field of health; and focuses on critical health skills, empowerment, and health for health protection and promotion – all of which have been largely ignored.

Objectives of this grant are:
1) To explore the use of innovative, culturally appropriate methods in MHL research.
2) To expand MHL promotion faculty- and student-led research and intervention globally.
3) To increase recognition of MHL and empowerment as the foundation of personal and public health worldwide.

The MPower project webpage is at:

Dr. Robert Akparibo, University of Sheffield
Assistant Professor Julie Balen, University of Sheffield
Associate Professor Kirsty Foster, University of Sydney
Clinical Instructor Linn Gould, University of Washington
Senior Lecturer Amos Laar, University of Ghana
Associate Professor Liz Mogford, University of Washington
Dr. Danielle Muscat, University of Syndey
Professor Don Nutbeam, University of Sydney
Clinical Instructor Sandra Smith, University of Washington

The following students from UMass Amherst have been involved in this project:
Nicole Britt, undergraduate (Biology)
Marissa Wilkinson, undergraduate (Nutrition)
Emily Cooper, graduate student (Public Health)

Public Health