In our Year 3 in Review, we reflected on HRSA/MCHB’s strategic paradigm “Accelerate Upstream Together”. Let’s take a deeper dive into what we’re doing at the LCIRN around each of these topics, starting with “accelerate”.
Accelerate means to work faster to improve MCH outcomes and eliminate disparities. At the LCIRN we are approaching this in three ways.
- Making the switch from describing to intervening.
As researchers, we want to understand as much as possible about the processes that lead to healthy development and the ways that they can get off track. While observational epidemiological studies are invaluable, multiple studies that describe, essentially, the same associations are of limited use, and at a certain point we have to stop describing and start intervening. Process studies are still a part of our research portfolio – but only with a view to developing an intervention that can bring about an improvement in health status at individual and population levels. Making this switch is not easy. Observational studies are quicker and frankly easier to perform. Planning, developing, designing, piloting and fielding a new intervention can take years, and can appear daunting to a new researcher whose research output is being closely monitored. Fortunately, we have senior investigators in the network who have experienced this path and are willing to provide mentorship to our scholars and junior researchers, as well as advocating for greater recognition of the work of intervention development in the faculty review process.
Join Us: Please consider advocating at your own institution for increased recognition of faculty effort in intervention development, especially interventions that are to be delivered in community settings and have a focus on health equity.
- Funding Pilot Studies
The LCIRN has made a commitment to devote a portion of our funding to supporting pilot studies that hold real promise for the development of new approaches to interventions. These pilot studies are being conducted by our LCIRN node members, who are mid-level or senior researchers testing an intervention in preparation for applying for funding for a larger study; and by our LCIRN Scholars, a group of early-career intervention researchers. Scholar Dr. Keisha Wint, for example, is piloting an intervention designed to help preschool teachers support children when they grieve.
- Stacking and Bundling Effective Interventions
This approach takes interventions that already have a strong evidence base and links them together through an integrated delivery system to a targeted population such that the overall impact is greater than that of any one intervention alone. Drs. Michael Msall and Susan Hintz are developing the “Success After Prematurity” node around this concept – identifying and scaffolding existing interventions, then filling in the gaps, to ensure that low-income families of preemies have access to the resources and interventions they need to give their children the best opportunities for development.
Bundled interventions may be particularly effective when they address social determinants of health – e.g., Dr. Adam Schickedanz, leader of the LCIRN Adversity, Adaptation and Resilience Node has been studying the impact of medical-financial partnerships as a way to improve child and family health. Mark Feinberg, leader of the Family Health Development Node is studying new ways to couple his evidence-based co-parenting intervention, Family Foundations, with financial coaching.