The United States ranks first in maternal mortality among developed nations. To address this crisis, the La Jolla, Calif.-based Scripps Research Digital Trials Center has launched a research consortium aimed at leveraging digital and mobile technologies to improve maternal and fetal health outcomes.
The PowerMom consortium includes organizations from sectors ranging from health and technology companies to advocacy groups and community health centers to advance research into maternal health.
Despite global maternal mortality decreasing over the course of the last few decades, in the United States the rate has been increasing, with 63 percent of these pregnancy-related deaths being preventable. In addition, Black, American Indian and Alaska Native mothers are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts, while Hispanic mothers have the highest rates of increase in severe maternal morbidity in recent years.
The consortium will use digital and mobile technologies to recruit, monitor and communicate with pregnant study participants. Led by researchers at the Scripps Research Digital Trials Center, the goal is to build the largest, most diverse community of pregnant people and gather valuable health information to help guide expectant mothers and care teams toward healthier pregnancies.
The PowerMom consortium builds on a successful pilot phase of the study, which saw more than 3,500 pregnant people share their health data with scientists.
Tapping into the ubiquity of smartphones and improving broadband access, the PowerMom team has developed an app-based research platform that allows pregnant people to share health data through surveys, electronic health records and wearables such as fitness trackers and smartwatches.
By enabling participants to enroll and participate in the study remotely, the scientists hope to eliminate some of the barriers that exist for traditional clinic-based studies which have historically lacked diversity. Building a large and diverse community of pregnant people will allow scientists to shed light on the unique characteristics that contribute to healthy pregnancies.
The Scripps team is partnering with organizations with a shared commitment to improving the health of mothers and babies. Outreach support will be provided by Microsoft, March of Dimes, WebMD, Mae, Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance, and African American Wellness Center for Children and Families, all of which are helping build awareness of the study. CareEvolution, a health technology company that enables sharing of health information, developed MyDataHelps, the research platform that powers PowerMom and many other digital studies currently underway.
Digital health company Sharecare will assist with the development of digital biomarkers and AI models to track maternal health conditions through Smart Omix, its decentralized clinical research platform. In addition, Woebot Health is supporting a sub-study on postpartum mental health management, and Fitbit is supporting a study on the impact that systemic racism experienced by Black and Hispanic pregnant people may have on their health.
“Historically, pregnant people have been excluded from most clinical research resulting in significant knowledge gaps when it comes to understanding pregnancy on an individual level,” says Toluwalasé Ajayi, M.D., who is a physician and clinical researcher at Scripps Research, and the principal investigator of PowerMom, in a statement. “Staggering racial inequities make it all the more urgent for scientists to help tackle this national public health crisis.”
Any pregnant person living in the United States who has a smartphone is eligible to start participating today. To learn more, visit powermom.scripps.edu.