Abstract: Marketing a Maternal and Infant Mortality Prevention Program in the Age of COVID-19: Lessons Learned from UH Healthy Start (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Marketing a Maternal and Infant Mortality Prevention Program in the Age of COVID-19: Lessons Learned from UH Healthy Start

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Monument, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
McClain Sampson, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Wen Xu, MSW, PhD student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Sahana Prabhu, Student, Rice University
Jerry Roberson, Performance Coach and Consultant, Consultant
Background: Stark racial inequity across birth outcomes for Black mothers and infants exists in the United States (Kassebaum, 2016). Black mothers die during or after childbirth at three times that of White mothers. The infant mortality rate (IMR) for Black infants is 2.5 times higher than White infants (CDC, 2017). Birth inequity rates in Houston, Texas mirror the nationwide rates, with Black infants dying at a rate of six times higher than others. To decrease IMR and MMR and reduce health disparities, the University of Houston launched Healthy Start program (UHHS), a community-embedded program in high-risk areas. In less than one year of implementation, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and all program activities had to switch to remote modalities, putting marginalized populations at even higher risk of being cut off from health-related services. To maintain momentum in recruitment, UHHS began aggressively marketing the program, including social media presence, mobile marketing, radio advertisements and a series of “mom chat” focus groups. This paper reports the impact of marketing strategies on recruitment and share focus group findings on participants’ preferences for UHHS outreach materials.

Methods: Descriptive analysis was used to evaluate the impact of different marketing strategies. Data include output from each marketing strategy (numbers of activities and people engaged) and de-identified participants’ recruitment information. After launching the online and radio marketing, we conduct focus group interviews with mothers to explore how they would talk to their friends about prenatal and postpartum care. They also give feedback on UHHS marketing materials. A total of 25 women from areas with high IMR and MMR participated in focus groups. Thematic analysis was used to find emergent themes.

Preliminary Results:

From December 2019 to March 2021, a total of 160 participants were outreached by the program, including 132 females and 28 males. Majority of them self-identified as African Americans (n=116, 72.5%), and 24.3% identified as Hispanic (n=39). The outreach participant numbers reached three peaks in 16 months, and they were in tune with the implementation of marketing strategies. Emergent themes from the focus groups reveal that what mothers want most is to be made aware of the danger that Black mothers face in pregnancy. They want to hear other mothers’ stories of how obtaining prenatal and postpartum care saved their life or their babies’ lives. Emergent themes also reveal a need for a cohesive community among mothers and advocacy when interacting with healthcare professionals.

Conclusions and Implications:

Results show that the use of mobile media resulted in higher numbers of potential participants reached. Radio spots and social media had the greatest impact in increasing interest in participation. Focus group findings suggest a need for a marketing campaign that highlights stories of healthy mothers and patient advocacy. Maternal and child health programs are a critical vehicle to connecting Black mothers at risk for complications and death during pregnancy.To achieve equity in the racial disparity of maternal and infant health, community-based programs consistently innovate to engage participants.