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Berkeley Public Health professor Cassondra Marshall wins funding to measure impact of community doulas

Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Professor Cassondra Marshall was awarded the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Engagement award. This award is being used for building capacity for client-centered and stakeholder-engaged research on community doulas.

Doulas are trained professionals who provide educational, physical, and emotional support before, during, and after
 pregnancy, including support during labor and birth. Community doulas typically serve under-resourced communities and are from the communities they serve.

“Community doula care is
 frequently mentioned as a promising intervention to address racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes, but researchers
 have little understanding of how to leverage doulas to positively impact outcomes from a patient-centered perspective,” Marshall said. “The goal 
of our current project is to build capacity for a patient-centered research agenda
 on the impact of doula care on maternal and infant health.”

The grant was awarded in March and will fund the project for two years, in collaboration with community partners SisterWeb and Roots of Labor Birth Collective. Joining Marshall on this project are Anu Manchikanti-Gomez of the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare and UCSF’s Monica McLemore.

“I’m thrilled because I think it’s a unique opportunity to be able to set the research agenda and not just jump into the research,” Marshall said. “It’s an opportunity to take a step back and see what do doulas value, what do clients value, what do researchers and public health professionals and clinicians value.”

This work on community doulas is part of a portfolio of projects that PCORI has funded to help develop a community of patients and other stakeholders equipped to participate as partners in comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) and disseminate PCORI-funded study results.

“This project was selected for Engagement Award funding because it will build a community equipped to participate as partners in CER and develop partnerships and infrastructure to disseminate PCORI-funded research results,” Jean Slutsky, PCORI’s Chief Engagement and Dissemination Officer said.