Reproductive Life Plans to Improve Infant Health

May 3, 2016

Kendra Copanas of the Maternal, Child, & Family Health Coalition and Pamela Xaverius of Saint Louis University worked together on a project supported by the St. Louis Community/University Health Research Partnerships (CUHRP) initiative to answer the question: “How can we support women’s health before pregnancy?”

Why it’s important

Preterm birth, low birth weight, and infant mortality remain a problem for babies born in St. Louis, especially those with low-income or minority mothers. An effective strategy for improving infant health is to address the preconception health of women.

Preconception health focuses on improving comprehensive primary care so that conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity can be managed before pregnancy. Most women have access to prenatal care once they become pregnant, but preconception care is often overlooked.

Their project

Year 1 – A needs assessment

The partners sought to understand how St. Louis health care organizations address preconception health. To do this, they conducted a needs assessment of St. Louis City and County. They also surveyed women to find out their beliefs and priorities about their health before pregnancy.

The needs assessment found that the St. Louis community needs to help women do more reproductive life planning to successfully manage health conditions before pregnancy. This finding led to the creation of the Partnership for Preconception Health (PPH), a collaborative effort by 25 community organizations to advocate for preconception health.

Year 2 – Education about preconception health

The PPH was instrumental in helping to develop the next phase of the project. The project partners worked with the PPH to adapt and test an intervention to educate women about reproductive life planning in two different settings: a brief training in a clinical setting and an intensive training in a group education setting.

Immediate impact

  • The Maternal, Child, & Family Health (MCFH) Coalition submitted a second grant to the CDC to expand the scope of the project, and was awarded additional funding to develop a Community Action Plan.
  • The MCFH Coalition also established a full-time position to develop the PPH, which will have a long-term impact on the preconception health of low-income and minority women in St. Louis.

Next steps

The partners will continue to work together to identify regional partners for the PPH. They will also support community organizations and clinical practices as they integrate preconception health into patient care.

Project highlights

“One of the first successes we had as a result of building the application was the other opportunity to apply for federal funding. We were able to leverage the CUHRP grant to get more funding, and that allowed us to do more community engagement of women.”
—Kendra Copanas, Maternal, Child, & Family Health Coalition

“[The members of the PPH] attended monthly meetings, and were intimately involved in defining what was important to them, what was involved, and how it rolled out in their community. The community really drove it, and this will be maintained because the community is really invested in it.”
—Pamela Xaverius, Saint Louis University