Teixeira-Poit Receives NIH Grant to Study Impact of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Design

EAST GREENSBORO, NC (September 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, received a $568,960 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, “Identifying and Mitigating Health Disparities Following a Design Change from Open Bay Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to Single-Family Rooms”.

Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) are essential for providing high quality care and ensuring optimal health outcomes for sick and preterm newborns. Although NICUs began as open bays with many babies admitted in large rooms of varying size, a growing trend in NICU design is single-family rooms with one baby allowed per room and accommodations for at least one parent stays with the baby.

One benefit of the single-family room design is increased parent-baby bonding time, but this assumes that all parents can cohabit with their babies. Research suggests that black and low-income parents may face challenges, such as lack of paid maternity leave or transportation, that limit their opportunities for cohabitation at the frequency of white and economically privileged parents.

The study will use data from multiple sources to determine whether patient subpopulations equally benefited or were unintentionally harmed by the NICU design change. Some of this research will be done at Cone Health, which transitioned to NICU single family rooms in 2020 at the Women’s & Children’s Center at Moses Cone Hospital. By researching the potential impacts of design change, Cone Health demonstrates its commitment to promoting health equity and reducing health disparities among patients.

The Teixeira-Poit research team includes co-investigators Bonnie Fields, Ph.D., clinical associate professor in the A&T School of Nursing, and Marjorie Jenkins, Ph.D., director of nursing research at Cone Health. The team will conduct a mixed-methods study that will triangulate 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 small pilot study sponsored by a $7,500 health equity award from the Daisy Foundation. The Daisy-funded pilot study involved preliminary analyzes of quantitative data and interviews with nurses that highlighted areas for further exploration.

The team will simultaneously explore whether there are disparities in health outcomes and experience of care between patient subpopulations, with particular attention to race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. . The team will also collect and analyze qualitative data from clinicians and administrators to provide rich detail about processes that may reproduce health disparities. The interviews will uncover barriers and reveal strategies to mitigate unintended consequences of the NICU design change.

New NIH funding is through the Support for Research Excellence (SuRE) R16 program, which supports research capacity building at institutions that recruit significant numbers of students from underrepresented backgrounds to the NIH. national scale in biomedical research.

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