AcademyHealth and the University of Pittsburgh have been approved for a multimillion-dollar funding award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to identify the most effective way that state Medicaid programs can implement doula care to improve postpartum health among Black people and people of color.

“This is an urgent question for approximately 1 million birthing people of color each year who are enrolled in Medicaid, and for their families,” said principal investigator Susan Kennedy, M.P.P., M.S.W., senior director of AcademyHealth's Evidence-Informed State Health Policy Institute. “Findings from our research will directly inform best practices to implement doula care programs in Medicaid in ways that will ensure that such care is accessible and relevant to the populations who can benefit most – that is, those populations facing the combined effects of poverty and racism.”

Beginning in August 2023, the study will be conducted by university research teams from the Medicaid Outcomes Distributed Research Network (MODRN). These research teams operate in six states that are in various stages of implementing doula care programs: Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. This community-engaged research will include doula organizations, who have explicit goals of Black racial equity, as research partners as well as engaging with Medicaid patients and state Medicaid agency officials. The study will draw on the research infrastructure and existing partnerships of MODRN, which is a well-established collaboration between university researchers and state Medicaid agencies in 13 states.

“This study represents the first multi-state study focused on how to implement doula services in a way that can advance racial equity in Medicaid programs,” said co-principal investigator Marian Jarlenski, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Health Policy and Management in the School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. “By learning from Medicaid patients, doulas, and state Medicaid agency stakeholders, our findings will provide new and much-needed evidence on how doula care can interrupt the structural and interpersonal racism that people experience during pregnancy and postpartum, and, in turn, facilitate access to evidence-based and lifesaving care and support.”

This study was selected through a PCORI funding announcement specifically focused on research to assess the comparative clinical effectiveness of multicomponent strategies to improve early detection of, and timely care for, complications up to six weeks postpartum for Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic, rural, and low socioeconomic status populations.

“This study was selected for PCORI funding for its potential to answer the need for real-world evidence to enable optimal use of multicomponent strategies to improve care among populations at increased risk of postpartum maternal mortality, severe maternal morbidity, or pregnancy complications,” said PCORI Executive Director Nakela L. Cook, M.D., M.P.H. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with AcademyHealth and the University of Pittsburgh to share the results.”   

This award has been approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract. Research reported in this publication was funded through a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Award (MMM-2022C2-28218). The views in this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), its Board of Governors or Methodology Committee.

Lauren Adams

Lauren Adams, M.A.

Senior Director of Communications and Marketing - AcademyHealth

Lauren Adams, M.A., is senior director of communications and marketing at AcademyHealth, where she oversees th... Read Bio

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