Our Scholars’ stories: Worthington revolutionizes maternal health through innovative nutrition programs

Our Scholars’ stories: Worthington revolutionizes maternal health through innovative nutrition programs


Camille Worthington, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), is spearheading a groundbreaking initiative to transform maternal health through innovative nutritional interventions.

Her project, “Use of Home-Delivered Meals to Manage Cardiometabolic Health during Pregnancy among Predominantly Black, Low-Income Women in Alabama,” focuses on the critical juncture of pregnancy, diet, maternal well-being, and birth outcomes among Medicaid-eligible pregnant individuals.

Worthington’s “Why”

At the heart of Worthington’s initiative lies a profound purpose—to resolve the disparities prevalent in healthy eating and appropriate pregnancy weight gain that contribute to unequal risk of poor pregnancy outcomes, such as high blood pressure, particularly among marginalized communities.

“The U.S. and Alabama have some of the highest rates of pregnancy complications, poor pregnancy outcomes, and mom and baby death related to pregnancy,” Worthington explains. “Good nutrition is an important part of a healthy pregnancy, but not everyone has the ability to afford or access a healthy diet.”

Worthington explains that neighborhoods with more Black/African American residents and more low-income households have more fast-food restaurants, less grocery stores, and fewer healthy food options. These circumstances contribute to poor outcomes during pregnancy.

A staggering 70% of pregnant women exceed recommended intakes of added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats. Additionally, more than half gain excess weight during pregnancy, risking their and their babies’ health.

Transforming outcomes through food delivery

“The purpose of my project is to see if providing pregnant moms who are Medicaid-eligible with ten free healthy meals delivered right to their homes each week during their pregnancy helps them eat healthier, gain the right amount of pregnancy weight, have less stress, and if it is a service that they like,” says Worthington.

She envisions a transformative impact on the community by providing access to healthy meals.

“Healthy meal delivery can support healthier pregnancies, which supports healthier babies, and ultimately healthier communities,” she says.

“Long-term, we hope to show that providing pregnant people with healthy meals improves pregnancy outcomes and saves insurance companies money by preventing moms and babies from having pregnancy complications and having to stay in the hospital.”

Worthington explains that pregnant individuals eligible for Medicaid are participants in the program. Health care providers, community organizations supporting expectant mothers, and insurance providers are stakeholders in broader implementation.

Moving towards change

“We want healthy meal delivery to become a covered health care service to support all moms’ ability to eat healthy and have a healthy pregnancy.”

Worthington passionately emphasizes the intrinsic link between a balanced diet, stress reduction, and improved health outcomes for both mother and baby, paving the way to address the prevailing disparities in maternal healthcare across the U.S.

“Overall, a better diet, healthier pregnancy weight gain, and lower stress can improve health outcomes for mom and baby and could help to overcome the unequal rates of pregnancy complications that we see in the U.S.,” she says.

Worthington’s visionary initiative serves as a beacon of hope, steering academia, health care providers, and policymakers toward a paradigm shift in maternal health, advocating for a future where access to nutritious meals becomes an inalienable right for every expectant mother.

LEAD Early Program hosts successful meeting with Birmingham partners

LEAD Early Program hosts successful meeting with Birmingham partners


Forge AHEAD Center recently partnered with the City of Birmingham Dept. of Youth Services LEAD Early Program to support community leaders as they discussed national and local solutions to close disparity gaps in maternal and child health.

The cohort of community leaders, educators and health equity champions were energized and inspiring, sharing personal stories, triumphs, and opportunities in pursuit of equitable, healthy and thriving communities for all.

Children’s of Alabama Pediatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) Director, Cynthia Jones, delivered the keynote address highlighting social determinants of health and the mental health implications for children and teens.

Forge AHEAD Center scholar, Dr. Camille Schneider Worthington, discussed her pilot project: utilizing meal delivery services for expectant mothers to reduce cardio metabolic disease.

Community Advisory Board member and JXN People’s Assembly Director, Brooke Floyd, shared her passion for providing equitable resources and advocating for families in Jackson, MS.

And, Dr. Felicia Fortune, CEO of KidsXpress Urgent Care, discussed the importance and access to routine care for children.

Rauslyn Adams, MSW, and Lorren, from Chocolate Milk Mommies, and Dalia Abrams, with Birthwell Partners discussed their work supporting expectant and breastfeeding mothers.

Community Coalition spotlight: Community Care Development Network

Community Coalition spotlight: Community Care Development Network


Forge AHEAD Center (FAC) and Community Care Development Network (CCDN) in Alabama have embarked on a collaborative partnership aimed at reshaping the landscape of food security and fostering equitable change.

CCDN is a network dedicated to helping solve community challenges such as youth peer pressure, adult conflict, communication and financial barriers, and life skills—among others—by offering support services in the areas of education, family, and community outreach.

A partnership focus on long-term change

The partnership between FAC and CCDN brings together the expertise, resources, and shared vision of two entities dedicated to uplifting communities and enhancing livelihoods.

Forge AHEAD Center’s focus on health equity research and community health aligns seamlessly with CCDN’s commitment to providing comprehensive support networks for underserved populations.

“FAC benefits and adds value to CCDN as we enter a research space for food insecurity and health disparities,” says Tamika D. Holmes, MBA, MHRM, founder and director of Community Care Development Network.

CCDN’s mission is to develop, transform, and restore life to families, adults, teens, and the community to be committed, unified, and mature. Their vision is empowering and influencing people to own their potential and create an opportunity for themselves.

When working with external partners, Holmes says one of the most important goals is to ensure external partners fit this mission and vision.

“This also helps us to determine the strength of the partnership and the output of the work both CCDN and partners have the capability to perform. Another important goal is that external partners should focus on the community’s best interests. This comes by interacting with the community to learn the best ways to serve the community.”

Working together

At the heart of the partnership lies a mutual understanding of the multifaceted challenges faced by communities—ranging from economic disparities to limited access to education and health care.

By combining strengths, Forge AHEAD Center and CCDN aim to address these challenges comprehensively, employing a holistic approach that considers the diverse needs of individuals and communities.

“We are currently operating several community food hubs in various locations of Jefferson County and one in Blount County,” says Holmes. “The growth towards research will help us provide better quality of food in the locations that are food insecure. In addition, the community engagement component helps voices to be heard clearly.”

Moreover, the collaboration extends beyond education, encompassing health care initiatives and social support systems. CCDN’s experience in providing services dovetails with Forge AHEAD Center’s mission to ensure access to quality health care for all. Together, they will strive to bridge gaps in healthcare access.

Shared commitment for the future

The synergy between Forge AHEAD Center and CCDN signifies a shared commitment healthy futures for all communities.

“CCDN is in the process of introducing our food insecurity project to various partners, including FAC,” says Holmes. “We are excited about the continued progress of meeting the community’s needs in this capacity, as we know that food is a primary need. We look forward to many robust conversations on how to make an impact in the food insecurity arena.”

As this partnership continues to evolve, its impact reverberates through communities, creating a brighter, more inclusive future. By working hand in hand, Forge AHEAD Center and CCDN exemplify the profound impact that collaboration and shared vision can have in building stronger, more resilient communities for generations to come.

Compretta Joins Leadership of the Office of Research at UMC

Caroline Compretta, PhD Joins Leadership of the Office of Research at University of Mississippi Medical Center

Forge AHEAD is excited to announce Dr. Caroline Compretta’s new appointment as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research at University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. Compretta is a charismatic and innovative researcher whose unique experience grounds her in the communities she serves. Drs. Bidwell and Compretta will lead the research enterprise of Mississippi’s only academic medical center, University of Mississippi Medical Center upon the retirement of Dr. Joey Granger on June 30, 2023. Dr. Granger stated in an announcement that “[t]he duo represents a dynamic pairing: Dr. Bidwell’s unique and extensive basic science and translational research experience complements Dr. Compretta’s impressive track record in translational and population health research. Under their leadership, we anticipate continued growth of all aspects of the Medical Center’s research mission.”

In this new role, Dr. Compretta will work to grow the body of community-engaged research at University of Mississippi Medical Center and foster new research collaborations. In addition to her ongoing research and work with Forge AHEAD, Dr. Compretta holds leadership roles in three National Institutes of Health-funded centers.