The University of Chicago’s Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation (Ci3) in Sexual and Reproductive Health was recently awarded a grant to pilot an app and toolkit designed to help young women ages 15-25 lengthen inter-pregnancy intervals (IPIs). Short IPIs – pregnancies within 18 months of a previous birth – were identified as an issue of national importance in Healthy People 2020’s 10-year agenda for improving the nation’s health.
The Patient-Centered Postpartum Contraceptive Toolkit was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The project will be led by Ci3’s founder and director Dr. Melissa Gilliam in partnership with Resilient Games Studio, LLC, and Access Community Health Network’s Center for Discovery and Learning, an NIH-funded, community-based research center.
“As this generation of digital natives comes of age, it is time to rethink and retool the clinical visit,” said Gilliam. “According to one study, adolescents spend nine hours a day using technology, so a mobile app for postpartum contraceptive education is an obvious tool.”
According to a 2015 National Vital Statistics Report from the CDC, shorter IPIs may affect the risk of pregnancy complications, such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and small gestational age. The National Survey of Family Growth reports that 29.3% of women have short IPIs, with the highest rates among teenagers ages 15-19 (57%), followed by women ages 20-29 (33%). With close to 40% of teen girls ages 15-19 having short IPIs, followed by 24.5 % of women ages 20-24, Chicago mirrors national rates. African-American teenagers in Chicago were more likely to have a shorter IPI (11.8%) than their Hispanic (8.6%) and white (8.1%) peers.
This project will be conducted in two phases. Though the final toolkit will serve all adolescents, the first phase will develop and test a prototype for African-American teen girls in Englewood, where 25% of adolescents have short IPIs, compared to 18.9% for Chicago as a whole. The full toolkit will be a multisystem, multimedia intervention for the prenatal and postpartum periods that will include apps, training videos, algorithms, policies, patient educational materials, resources and research.
“This project is just the type of innovative, community-based research that we hoped to bring to the ACCESS Center for Discovery and Learning,” said ACCESS’ Director of Research Dani Lazar. “As we continue to tackle real health issues that are plaguing our communities, we must think differently and find ways to engage area residents in developing the right solutions that will work for that specific community.”