The Women and Health Initiative is led by Dr. Ana Langer, a physician specializing in pediatrics and neonatology, and a reproductive health expert. She joined the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in July 2010 as a Professor of the Practice of Public Health in the Department of Global Health and Population. Dr. Langer is respected worldwide as a leader in using research findings to influence policy and improve the overall quality of health care for women and families. For more than 25 years, she has been a leading researcher, programmer and advocate for the improvement of women’s health.
Dr. Langer has published extensively on maternal mortality; psychosocial support during pregnancy, labor, delivery and the post-partum period; quality of maternal health care, unsafe abortion, emergency contraception; the introduction of evidence-based practices in maternal health services; and strategies to reinforce the reproductive health component in health sector reform programs in developing countries.
Dr. Langer is the director of the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF), a program established by her and her colleagues at EngenderHealth in 2009 and now housed within the Women and Health Initiative at Harvard Chan. The MHTF works toward the elimination of preventable maternal mortality, reduction of maternal morbidity, and improvement of maternal health globally through the generation and management of evidence on maternal health, the promotion of evidence-informed effective policies and programs, and the education of new and emerging leaders in the field. Key areas of focus for the MHTF are comprehensive quality of maternal health care and integration of maternal and newborn and reproductive health along the continuum of care.
In 2015, in collaboration with experts from all over the world, Dr. Langer published the comprehensive report Women and Health: A key to sustainable development in The Lancet. The paper lays out the foundations of the women and health framework which analyzes women’s health along the life cycle and its connections with social determinants of health and global transitions, and provides the evidence to fully demonstrate the critical role of women in terms of their own and their families’ health, and the development of communities and nations.
Dr. Langer teaches two courses at Harvard Chan: GHP 231: Sexual Reproductive Health: Global Perspectives and GHP 547: Field Experience in Maternal Health.
GHP 231 provides an overview of sexual and reproductive health and rights from a global perspective with a focus on the most disadvantaged populations. The course covers the critical topics in this field from diverse perspectives, including but not limited to: historic, conceptual, research, methodological, policy, programmatic, and advocacy.
GHP 547 provides students with an opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge to maternal health issues in low- and middle-income countries through direct experiences with the Maternal Health Task Force partner organizations. Each student’s experience is individually designed to meet the needs of both the student and the host organization.
Dr. Langer advises multiple masters and doctoral students working on women and maternal health issues.
Past Leadership Positions
Before joining the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Dr. Langer was president and CEO of EngenderHealth (2005-2010), an international not-for-profit organization that has worked for seven decades in more than 90 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and men. From 1994-2005, Dr. Langer was the Population Council’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean based in Mexico; for the last two of those years she was simultaneously the acting director of the Council’s Global Reproductive Health Program. Previously, she was the chair of the Department of Research in Women and Children’s Health for the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico (1988-1994), where she lead clinical trials and research projects and established the first master’s program in reproductive health in the Latin America and the Caribbean region.
Dr. Langer has a long track record of collaborating with leading academic organizations focused on global health, women’s health and reproductive health in the US and around the world. She works closely with reproductive health organizations, such as the Human Reproduction Programme of the World Health Organization, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Save the Children, USAID’s Maternal and Child Survival Program, and Jhpiego, among many other international and national organizations. She also serves on several editorial boards, including The Lancet International Advisory Board.
Originally from Argentina, Dr. Langer is fluent in Spanish, French, and English.