Katie Wouk is a perinatal health researcher with expertise in infant and young child feeding, mental health, and maternity care and a particular interest in services for rural communities, Spanish speakers, and substance using populations. She completed her PhD in 2018 in Maternal and Child Health with a minor in Epidemiology at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) in 2018. She joined PIRE in 2021 after completing three years as a postdoctoral research fellow at UNC’s Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (CGBI).
The goal of Katie’s research and practice is to support thriving families through evidence-based programs and policies that serve pregnant and postpartum people. This goal has grown out of 15 years of experience advancing the interdependent health outcomes of birthing people and their infants, initially as a Peace Corps volunteer, a qualitative researcher in Bolivia, and a bilingual nutritionist at a community health center. Katie’s dissertation involved analysis of longitudinal data on a cohort of mother-infant dyads, finding an association between the maternal experience of infant feeding and postpartum depression and anxiety. Building upon these findings, she obtained independent funding to collaborate with a network of community health centers in the design of holistic postpartum services for their mostly Latinx patients. She has also worked with state early childhood leaders from the Child Fatality Task Force and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to lead a geospatial and statistical analysis of lactation resources and breastfeeding rates, contributing to Medicaid’s adoption of a reimbursement policy for lactation services in North Carolina.
At PIRE, she continues to collaborate with CGBI to evaluate programs to expand access to evidence-based maternity and child care practices across North and South Carolina. She also works with researchers in UNC’s Department of Family Medicine, contributing expertise in informatics and electronic health record data analysis for a mixed methods evaluation of a new rural maternity center. She is interested in research to support the health of parent-infant dyads, especially Spanish-speaking families and those from marginalized groups such as those using substances or affected by the criminal justice system. Katie also serves on the boards of El Vinculo Hispano in Chatham County, North Carolina and of the Global Health Foundation in Denver, Colorado.