Two MU researchers have been awarded nearly $421,000 to conduct a three-year study aimed at improving family planning and outreach in Boone County’s growing Hispanic population.
Studying cultural barriers in birth control use
Dr. James Campbell and Dr. Marjorie Sable will use the grant, funded by the nonprofit Missouri Foundation for Health, to study cultural barriers in the use of birth control among local Hispanics.
Previous research by Sable and Campbell on unintended pregnancies and recent census data provide the basis for the new study, which will be conducted in four stages and focus on both men and women.
The researchers plan to use their findings, Sable said, to develop “culturally appropriate” materials to break down barriers that can inhibit the use of contraceptives among Hispanic immigrants, who are often impoverished.
A public health concern
“With low-income populations, there is a high rate of unintended pregnancies,” Sable said, adding that those pregnancies remain an important public health concern.
In the first step of their study, Sable and Campbell will conduct six focus groups, three for men and three for women.
Joy Williams, director of minority health for the Missouri Department of Health, said that while birth and mortality rates are readily available, the rate of unintended pregnancy for any community has been difficult to ascertain.
Success will rest on the cooperation the researchers receive from the focus groups, Williams said. “It would basically be left up to the community to tell the researchers if that information (from the study) would be useful to the community.”
Hispanic population rises in Boone County
The number of Hispanics in Boone County has increased by almost 10 percent in the last two years, according to census data.
Daryl Hobbs of MU’s Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis said no one really knows whether the growth of the Hispanic population in Boone County is tied to families having more children.
“I can’t tell you right now whether there has been a significant increase in the birth rate among Hispanics in Boone County in the last couple of years,” Hobbs said.
One goal of the researchers is to better prepare medical professionals who would provide family planning services to the Hispanic population. Eventually, Sable and Campbell will hire and train one Hispanic woman and one Hispanic man to explain various family planning methods to immigrant families.
Heather McClurg, director of communications at the Missouri Foundation for Health, which helps Missouri residents without health insurance, praised the project, saying it “has a lot of strengths.”