Federally funded nonprofit PCORI doles out $80M for large studies focused on maternal health

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has announced funding awards of $80.5 million to support four new studies focused on disparities in maternal health. 

The clinical effectiveness research studies will take into account the clinical and social factors that contribute to inequities in maternal morbidity and mortality. The trials will focus on populations disproportionately experiencing adverse outcomes, like Black and Latino communities, as well as those in rural areas or with lower incomes.

Each study will be co-led by investigators from research institutions and community organizations. The projects involve tens of thousands of study participants and aim to involve community partners, including many not traditionally engaged in research. 

The studies will compare a range of practice-level and community- and home-based interventions to address common challenges in maternal health. Each will have a planning phase of up to one year and a research phase of up to five years.

“The usual approaches to health research and health care have not sufficiently addressed the alarming and worsening national crisis of maternal death and severe illness,” PCORI Executive Director Nakela L. Cook, M.D., said in a press release. “Patient-centered comparative clinical effectiveness research that responds to the many challenges concurrently facing pregnant individuals and those who care for them has the capacity to answer questions about which combinations of approaches can best resolve some of these complex maternal health care challenges that have for too long defied solutions.”

The trials are among 30 comparative clinical effectiveness research studies and related projects recently approved for PCORI funding. The organization announced Tuesday it offered up $225 million in funding for dozens of health research studies and related projects.

With these latest awards, PCORI has invested more than $4.5 billion to fund patient-centered CER and support other projects.

The partner awards for mental health research are as follows: 

1. Comparative Effectiveness of Three Equity Interventions to Improve Maternal Health: led by principal investigators from Public Health Solutions and Columbia University, across multiple diverse New York City neighborhoods 

2. Delivering HOPE (Helping Women Optimize Prenatal Equity): led by principal investigators from Community Health Centers of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas for Medical Services, across 14 federally qualified health centers 

3. Pathways to Perinatal Mental Health Equity (Pathways): led by principal investigators from Postpartum Support International and UMass Chan Medical School, across Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin

4. Thriving Hearts: Healing-Centered, Integrated, Community Maternity Care, led by principal investigators from the Orange County Health Department and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, across 10 counties in central North Carolina

Two studies will address maintaining a healthy maternal weight to prevent delivery or postpartum complications among primarily low-income patients in Arkansas, which has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country, and New York City. They will follow social services interventions, like grocery delivery or transportation to medical appointments and social service navigation through community health workers.

Another study will be in 10 counties in North Carolina to track the results of a multi-channel program that includes at-home monitoring, provider education and support for community health workers meant to reduce hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. 

A fourth study will focus on mood and anxiety disorders, which affect one in five women, and compare how well a practice-level intervention and a peer support program improve symptoms of depression and anxiety among patients receiving perinatal care across seven states. 

"These funding awards mark an important advancement of PCORI’s longstanding leadership in engaging patients and those who care for them in all aspects of comparative clinical effectiveness research to ensure that results are relevant, useful and impactful,” PCORI Deputy Executive Director for Patient-Centered Research Programs Harv Feldman, M.D., said in the announcement. “We look forward to seeing the impact the studies’ findings will have for maternal health across the United States—particularly among populations that continue to disproportionately experience adverse outcomes.”