New grant awarded to address maternal mortality, contraception among African refugees

Published September 15, 2023

Kafuli Agbemenu received a National Institutes of Health R21 grant award to support her work on reproductive health care in African refugees: “Developing and Testing a Smart Phone Based Contraceptive Use Educational Intervention for African Immigrant Women with Low Literacy.”

"By addressing the specific needs of this marginalized population, we hope to create a model that can be expanded and adapted to other underserved communities."
Kafuli Agbemenu, Assistant Professor
School of Nursing

Maternal mortality remains a pressing global concern, ranking as the second leading cause of death among women of reproductive age worldwide. Maternal mortality can be potentially reduced through family planning use. Through her research, Agbemenu aims to empower women and their families around family planning decision making, particularly among vulnerable and marginalized populations. The grant, provided by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, underscores the urgency of the problem and the potential impact of Agbemenu’s research.

When pregnancy is intended, it can significantly contribute to a decrease in maternal mortality rates, as unintended pregnancies are associated with adverse outcomes such as low birth weight, delayed prenatal care access, and other health concerns for both mothers and infants. The burden of unintended pregnancies disproportionately affects low-income women, women of color, and immigrant women.

Agbemenu’s research focuses specifically on African immigrant women, including refugees. This population faces an array of challenges, including limited access to health care, language barriers, low socioeconomic status and educational disparities. Their reproductive health outcomes are often compromised due to these barriers, warranting a targeted intervention.

The primary objective of Agbemenu’s research is to bridge critical gaps in health care by providing culturally sensitive contraceptive information to African refugee women who have limited English proficiency and low literacy levels. This endeavor encompasses two specific aims:

Cultural Adaptation of Web-Based Intervention: The research team will modify an existing web-based family planning intervention to create a culturally congruent smartphone-based intervention. This adaptation aims to ensure the intervention is both effective and relevant to the target population.

Feasibility and Efficacy Assessment: The study will then assess the feasibility, acceptability and preliminary efficacy of the newly developed smartphone-based intervention.

The innovative approach involves utilizing a smartphone application to disseminate self-paced, science-based educational contraceptive use content. This strategy tackles various barriers to family planning access, including misinformation, fear of adverse effects and concerns about partner or family reactions. Agbemenu’s intervention aims to empower women to make informed choices about their reproductive health and family planning, enabling them to pursue educational and career goals.

Agbemenu says the potential of this research is to improve the lives of African refugee women; more widely, it will also contribute to the global effort in reducing maternal mortality rates.

"By addressing the specific needs of this marginalized population, we hope to create a model that can be expanded and adapted to other underserved communities," she said.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute On Minority Health And Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R21MD017648. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


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