About this Blog Series

   NeKeshia Jones, MPH

NeKeshia Jones, MPH, Senior Grant Specialist at Alameda Health System and prior PCORI Engagement Award recipient, says “the value of the collective community voice” guides her work to enhance maternal health. Jones believes the wisdom of community voices can tangibly improve health outcomes.

Furthermore, she adds, “all of the preexisting inequities that COVID-19 laid bare” validated her desire to address poor maternal health outcomes that continue to affect Black, lower income, and rural communities disproportionately.

Jones feels many barriers linked to poor maternal outcomes are “baked into our socioeconomic structures” and can be overcome with community support.

An Agenda for Advocacy: Creating the National Maternal Health Research Network

In conjunction with the public health organization Health Resources in Action (HRiA), Jones received PCORI Engagement Award funding as well as a COVID-19 Enhancement Award to create what she calls “an agenda for maternal health advocacy and research.” As project lead, Jones fostered collaboration among patients, patient representatives, birth workers, clinicians, researchers, and other stakeholders to develop a national, patient-centered agenda to improve maternal health outcomes. This joint effort was performed under the umbrella of the National Maternal Health Research Network (NMHRN). For Jones, the creation of NMHRN reflects her belief that public health organizations “should not be working in isolation” and need to collaborate with community members to “infuse the patient’s voice” into their work.

Doulas are the future for helping to improve maternal outcomes since they provide such personalized care.

NeKeshia Jones, MPH Senior Grant Specialist, Alameda Health System; PCORI Engagement Award recipient

Reimagining Health Care before, during, and after Pregnancy

While partnering with patients and birth workers to establish NMHRN, Jones was consistently reminded of the importance of “patient-prioritized and patient-centered care.” She notes that favorable health outcomes are frequently linked to “the freedom to build your own [healthcare] team.” Jones feels that pre- and post-pregnancy care is strengthened by the incorporation of birth workers, such as doulas and midwives, into the team. Furthermore, she believes “doulas are the future for helping to improve maternal outcomes since they provide such personalized care.”

One NMHRN patient advisor shared she had “a beautiful birthing process” with doula support before and after going into labor. Jones says that beneficial experiences like these suggest “we need to look at birth differently.” She adds, “years ago, we had a village of support” to help people during pregnancy and beyond, whereas today that often is not the case. Ultimately, Jones feels the key to improving maternal health is to help people “identify their village.”

Hear more from Jones during the Addressing Social and Structural Determinants of Maternal Health breakout session. View the full annual meeting agenda and register now!

About the 2022 PCORI Annual Meeting Blog Series

In the weeks leading up to the Annual Meeting on October 26 and 27, we are featuring a different breakout session panelist, their patient-centered work, and their participation in sessions on COVID-19, health equity, intellectual and developmental disabilities, maternal health, social determinants of health, and telehealth.

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