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Research priorities of women at risk for preterm birth: findings and a call to action.

  • Author(s): Franck, Linda S
  • McLemore, Monica R
  • Williams, Shanell
  • Millar, Kathryn
  • Gordon, Anastasia Y
  • Williams, Schyneida
  • Woods, Nakia
  • Edwards, Lisa
  • Pacheco, Tania
  • Padilla, Artie
  • Nelson, Fanta
  • Rand, Larry
  • et al.

BACKGROUND:Traditional hierarchical approaches to research give privilege to small groups with decision-making power, without direct input from those with lived experience of illness who bear the burden of disease. A Research Justice framework values the expertise of patients and communities as well as their power in creating knowledge and in decisions about what research is conducted. Preterm birth has persisted at epidemic levels in the United States for decades and disproportionately affects women of color, especially Black women. Women of color have not been included in setting the agenda regarding preterm birth research. METHODS:We used the Research Priorities of Affected Communities protocol to elicit and prioritize potential research questions and topics directly from women of color living in three communities that experience disproportionately high rates of preterm birth. Women participated in two focus group sessions, first describing their healthcare experiences and generating lists of uncertainties about their health and/or healthcare during pregnancy. Women then participated in consensus activities to achieve 'top-priority' research questions and topic lists. The priority research questions and topics produced by each group were examined within and across the three regions for similarities and differences. RESULTS:Fifty-four women participated in seven groups (14 sessions) and generated 375 researchable questions, clustered within 22 topics and four overarching themes: Maternal Health and Care Before, During, and After Pregnancy; Newborn Health and Care of the Preterm Baby; Understanding Stress and Interventions to Prevent or Reduce Stress; and Interpersonal and Structural Health Inequities. The questions and topics represent a wide range of research domains, from basic science, translational, clinical, health and social care delivery to policy and economic research. There were many similarities and some unique differences in the questions, topics and priorities across the regions. CONCLUSIONS:These findings can be used to design and fund research addressing unanswered questions that matter most to women at high risk for preterm birth. Investigators and funders are strongly encouraged to incorporate women at the front lines of the preterm birth epidemic in research design and funding decisions, and more broadly, to advance methods to deepen healthcare research partnerships with affected communities.

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