HRSA Grant UR650342

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Cao receives $2.2 million grant to support maternal health care for underserved women with SUD

Aize Cao, Ph.D., receives 2.2 million grant to receives $2.2 million HRSA grant to develop a comprehensive data analytics infrastructure model to support maternal health care for underserved women with substance use disorders.


Developing a Comprehensive Data Analytics Infrastructure Model to Support Maternal Healthcare for Underserved Women with Substance Use Disorders

Our Mission

To develop a comprehensive patient centered data analytics infrastructure model that prioritizes the needs of underserved pregnant and postpartum women struggling with substance use at Meharry’s Elam Health Center, with the ultimate goal to positively impact the well-being of pregnant and postpartum women nationwide.

Effort 1

Support substance abuse residential treatment and recovery program for pregnant and postpartum women within the Elam Mental Health Center (EMHC) at Meharry Medical College (Meharry), one of the historically black medical colleges (HBCU) in the United States.

Effort 2

Address health disparities and investigate the social determinant of health (SDoH) and other risk factors that contribute to the high risk pregnant-related complications associated with substance use disorders (SUD) and mental health.

Effort 3

Advance maternal health studies within the biomedical data science program of Meharry’s School of Applied Computational Sciences

Substance Use and Maternal Health

Substance use during pregnancy is a significant public health crisis that impacts both the mother and the developing fetus. It is associated with increased risk of adverse health outcomes, including poor birth, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), mental health or behavioral disorders, post-partum complications such as psychological distress, and mental health disorders and attention problems.

These issues disproportionately affect African American and underserved communities. This project will primarily focus on underserved pregnant or postpartum women in the Nashville area who use substances and who are treated at Meharry’s Elam Mental Health Center.

Elam Mental Health Center

The Elam Mental Health Center is part of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health. The EMHC’s Rainbow Program is a residential treatment program that provide 90-days of detoxification and residential treatment services to pregnant and postpartum women who lack financial resources.

The Center’s services were recently expanded to a model that offers chronic care services for at least a year, continued engagement with outpatient services, a safety net of social support, and the use of recovery support services to address the devastation of substance use disorder and related consequences.


The primary study patient cohort is the pregnant and postpartum women enrolled and treated in the Rainbow program at EMHC. We will also explore Tennessee state hospital discharge data and the NIH All of Us dataset.

Student Involvement

This project also engages and support minority students at the Meharry School of Applied Computational Sciences in education and research. Those students will pursue research in maternal health care and applications of data science to that domain. The results of their work will be shared internally and externally, with the objective of engaging more minority students and researchers in comprehending health disparities and predicting maternal health outcomes.