North Central Health District


NCHD Partners with Mercer University School of Medicine to Establish Academic Health Department


Partnership Will Focus on Maternal Health Issues Across District

North Central Health District (NCHD) has teamed up with Mercer University School of Medicine to establish an academic health department, the first one of its kind in Georgia. This partnership between the two organizations serves as a collaboration between academics and real-world practice, where staff, resources, research and other assets are shared between the participants.

The mutually beneficial partnership was created to improve education, practice and workforce development in public health. NCHD will benefit from the knowledge provided by Mercer while Mercer students and faculty will use county health departments to execute important research questions that may inform public health policy. The overall goal of the academic health department is to improve community health across the district, though it’s primary focus will be maternal health and health outcomes.

Dr. Jennifer Barkin, associate professor of community medicine and obstetrics and gynecology at Mercer University, will serve as the academic liaison between the university and NCHD, working closely with the district’s steering committee to shape the partnership. Dr. Barkin’s education and career revolves heavily around maternal health. She is a thought leader in the field having developed the Barkin Index of Maternal Functioning (BIMF), a self-report, postpartum instrument used around the world in a variety of healthcare settings. In addition to developing new tools for the field of maternal health, Dr. Barkin has participated on national advisory boards and expert panels dealing with maternal health and has been published in a variety of health journals.

“Many people do not fully understand how vital public health is to the community,” said Dr. Barkin. “Our partnership will promote public health by helping to create evidence-based policies and introducing services based on the most up-to-date information available. We will be using cutting-edge research to help our underserved community.”

NCHD’s women’s health services provide affordable healthcare to women in need. Each of the 13 county health departments offer expert and confidential care administered by highly-trained public health nurses and nurse practitioners. Women can visit their local health department for physical exams, STD and HIV testing, pregnancy testing, pap smears and more. Health department staff can answer questions and provide services to keep women healthy and strong.

“Women’s health is a major issue across our 13 counties that we work to address every day,” said Megan Chapman, NCHD Maternal Child Health Coordinator. “While the partnership between NCHD and Mercer is still in its infancy, we look forward to seeing this partnership develop and work to increase the quality of care provided to our clients.”

“Public health is moving toward the academic health department model,” said Dr. Barkin. “We are all excited to use this innovative model in Middle Georgia.”

For more information about women’s health services provided by NCHD’s 13 county health departments, visit

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