EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Sept. 9, 2022) – Stephanie Teixeira-Poit, Ph.D., associate professor at the John R. and Kathy R. Hairston College of Health and Human Sciences at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, has received a $568,960 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, “Identifying and Mitigating Health Disparities Following a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Design Change from Open-Bay to Single-Family Rooms.”
Neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) are critical to providing high-quality care and ensuring optimal health outcomes for sick and premature newborns. Although NICUs began as open bays with many babies admitted to large rooms of variable size, a growing trend in NICU design is single-family rooms with one baby admitted per room and accommodations for at least one parent to stay with the baby.
A benefit of the single-family room design is increased parent-baby bonding time, yet this assumes all parents can room-in with their babies. Research suggests Black and low-income parents may experience hardships, such as a lack of paid maternity leave or transportation, that limit their opportunity to room-in at the frequency of white and economically privileged parents.
The study will use data from multiple sources to explore whether patient sub-populations equally benefited from or were unintentionally harmed by the NICU design change. Some of this research will be done at Cone Health, which switched to single-family NICU rooms in 2020 at the Women’s & Children’s Center at Moses Cone Hospital. By looking for potential impacts of the design change, Cone Health is demonstrating its commitment to promoting health equity and reducing health disparities among patients.
Teixeira-Poit’s research team includes co-investigators Bonnie Fields, Ph.D., clinical associate professor in A&T’s School of Nursing, and Marjorie Jenkins, Ph.D., director of nursing research at Cone Health. The team will conduct a mixed-methods study that triangulates patient health outcome data, patient experience surveys and in-depth interviews with NICU staff.
The NIH study will build on the team’s previous work in a smaller pilot study sponsored by a $7,500 Daisy Foundation Health Equity Award. The Daisy-funded pilot study involved preliminary analyses of quantitative data and interviews with nurses that highlighted areas for further exploration.
The team will simultaneously explore whether disparities in health outcomes and experience of care exist across patient sub-populations, with special attention to race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The team also will collect and analyze qualitative data from clinicians and administrators to provide rich detail on processes that potentially reproduce health disparities. Interviews will unearth barriers and reveal strategies to mitigate unintended consequences of the NICU design change.
The new NIH funding is through the Support for Research Excellence (SuRE) R16 program, which supports research capacity building at institutions that enroll significant numbers of students from backgrounds nationally underrepresented in biomedical research.