North Carolina has among the highest rates of prematurity and infant mortality in the country. The impact of preterm birth and infant death on African-American families is significant, with a greater than two-fold disparity in birth outcomes when compared to Caucasian families. While some scientific questions about how to prevent infant mortality remain to be answered, there are numerous evidence-based strategies that if employed before, during and after pregnancy would improve birth outcomes. North Carolina has many community, state and academic organizations that provide information as well as practice tools to healthcare providers to promote healthy pregnancies. For the past several years, the Center for Maternal and Infant Health at UNC has offered opportunities for providers and practice groups to meet each other and share concerns, research goals, and practice improvements. However, lack of research on dissemination and programmatic evaluation has made such outreach programs vulnerable during budget reductions. Further, these outreach efforts have not as yet included the lay community which is crucial for identifying barriers at the community and individual level. We propose to use the Academic-Community Conference Award to develop a statewide perinatal network that is built on the principles of community-based participatory research and will unite disciplines, academic and community care settings, and communities and families to help lower infant mortality and reduce health disparities. One initial goal is to test different dissemination methods that will improve evidence-based perinatal care in North Carolina and be congruent with community values and priorities. In addition, this new forum will create a long-term agenda, a robust network with an Advisory Board, and sustainable efforts in obtaining funding for our work.
There are numerous evidence-based strategies that if employed before, during and after pregnancy improve birth outcomes. North Carolina has many distinct perinatal programs and providers, but has no statewide coalition to work with communities to determine the most effective methods to disseminate evidence-based interventions. We propose to use the principles of community-based participatory research to engage a diverse group of community-based health care providers, practice organization leaders, infant mortality prevention coalitions, and community public health leaders in dialogue about shared concerns, dissemination research goals and methods, and improve practice. This academic-community-based coalition will have an ongoing Advisory Board and culminate in Memorandum of Understanding with community organizations to test different dissemination methods for comparative effectiveness.