Institute for Families in Society

Faculty and Staff

Sarah Gareau

Title: Assistant Professor/Maternal and Child Health and Health Equity Evaluation Projects Team Lead
Department: IHPR
Institute for Families in Society
Phone: 803-777-5236
Sarah Gareau

Research Bio:

Sarah Gareau, DrPH, MCHES is an Assistant Professor and the Maternal and Child Health and Health Equity Evaluation Projects Team Lead at the University of South Carolina’s Institute of Families in Society (USC IFS). Her health services research and policy work centers on reducing maternal morbidity among communities of opportunity, as well as improving outcomes and access to healthcare for the uninsured. For over a decade, she has supported the data efforts of SC’s perinatal quality collaborative, the South Carolina Birth Outcomes Initiative (SCBOI), and she received a Voices of Public Health award from the South Carolina Public Health Association in 2020 for her outreach and advocacy to reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19. Dr. Gareau is currently an elected member of the Executive Board of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the former chair of APHA’s Women’s Caucus.


In 2001, I began working as a health educator for the Boys & Girls Club in Akron, OH where I saw firsthand the impact of policy on people. Federal mandates requiring mothers to return to work left children fending for themselves at our after school and summer programs. Some youth wandered towards other, less protective communities - changing the trajectory of their individual lives, the safety of the neighborhood, and cost right back to society.

Addressing these political and social determinants of health to improve health equity continues to be my passion. For the decade that followed my work at the Boys & Girls Club, I had the privilege to earn my doctorate with a cognate in women’s health policy, became MCHES certified, evaluated state education policy, improved access to health education and reproductive health services through grassroots mobilization, mentored students by directing a Master of Public Health program, and served as a leader at the American Public Health Association through my work with the Women’s Caucus.

I am currently the IFS Maternal and Child Health and Health Equity Evaluation Projects Team Lead where I am responsible for writing technical reports and policy briefs primarily related to maternal and infant health outcomes and access to health care for the uninsured. This job has allowed me to fulfill my passion of having on-the-ground practice, public health science, and health policy converge. I am particularly interested in how we can decrease maternal morbidity for communities of opportunity in SC through improved policy, provider practice, collaboration, and patient activation.

Over time, I have realized that often the greatest impact one can make to move the social justice needle happens behind the scenes through the provision of data that shapes policymakers’ minds. However, without the individuals, families, and communities, there is no data or need for policy, which is why it is so important to uplift the voices of those we ultimately serve to impact potentially greater change. This understanding helped drive my involvement in forming South Carolinians Reducing the Spread & Impact of COVID-19, a social media network of over 30,000 SC citizens. This volunteer effort relit my passion for grassroots advocacy centered on social justice and provided social support as our family navigated complex health needs throughout the shifting phases of the pandemic. In my remaining spare time, you can find me, my husband Brandon, and our two sons Teddy and Paddy in our pop-up camping at state parks.