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      Adapting and Scaling a Digital Health Intervention to Improve Maternal and Child Health Among Ethnic Minority Women in Vietnam Amid the COVID-19 Context: Protocol for the dMOM Project


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          Due to interconnected structural determinants including low maternal health knowledge, economic marginalization, and remoteness from low-capacity health centers, ethnic minority women in remote areas of Vietnam face severe maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) inequities. As ethnic minorities represent 15% of the Vietnamese population, these disparities are significant. mMOM—a pilot mobile health (mHealth) intervention using SMS text messaging to improve MNCH outcomes among ethnic minority women in northern Vietnam—was implemented from 2013-2016 with promising results. Despite mMOM’s findings, exacerbated MNCH inequities, and digital health becoming more salient amid COVID-19, mHealth has not yet been scaled to address MNCH among ethnic minority women in Vietnam.


          We describe the protocol for adapting, expanding, and exponentially scaling the mMOM intervention qualitatively through adding COVID-19–related MNCH guidance and novel technological components (mobile app and artificial intelligence chatbots) and quantitatively through broadening the geographical area to reach exponentially more participants, within the evolving COVID-19 context.


          dMOM will be conducted in 4 phases. (1) Drawing on a review of international literature and government guidelines on MNCH amid COVID-19, mMOM project components will be updated to respond to COVID-19 and expanded to include a mobile app and artificial intelligence chatbots to more deeply engage participants. (2) Using an intersectionality lens and participatory action research approach, a scoping study and rapid ethnographic fieldwork will explore ethnic minority women’s unmet MNCH needs; acceptability and accessibility of digital health; technical capacity of commune health centers; gendered power dynamics and cultural, geographical, and social determinants impacting health outcomes; and multilevel impacts of COVID-19. Findings will be applied to further refine the intervention. (3) dMOM will be implemented and incrementally scaled across 71 project communes. (4) dMOM will be evaluated to assess whether SMS text messaging or mobile app delivery engenders better MNCH outcomes among ethnic minority women. The documentation of lessons learned and dMOM models will be shared with Vietnam’s Ministry of Health for adoption and further scaling up.


          The dMOM study was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in November 2021, cofacilitated by the Ministry of Health, and is being coimplemented by provincial health departments in 2 mountainous provinces. Phase 1 was initiated in May 2022, and phase 2 is planned to begin in December 2022. The study is expected to be complete in June 2025.


          dMOM research outcomes will generate important empirical evidence on the effectiveness of leveraging digital health to address intractable MNCH inequities among ethnic minority women in low-resource settings in Vietnam and provide critical information on the processes of adapting mHealth interventions to respond to COVID-19 and future pandemics. Finally, dMOM activities, models, and findings will inform a national intervention led by the Ministry of Health.

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          How to Construct a Mixed Methods Research Design

          This article provides researchers with knowledge of how to design a high quality mixed methods research study. To design a mixed study, researchers must understand and carefully consider each of the dimensions of mixed methods design, and always keep an eye on the issue of validity. We explain the seven major design dimensions: purpose, theoretical drive, timing (simultaneity and dependency), point of integration, typological versus interactive design approaches, planned versus emergent design, and design complexity. There also are multiple secondary dimensions that need to be considered during the design process. We explain ten secondary dimensions of design to be considered for each research study. We also provide two case studies showing how the mixed designs were constructed.
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            A cross-national study of factors associated with women’s perinatal mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic

            Pregnant and postpartum women face unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic that may put them at elevated risk of mental health problems. However, few large-scale and no cross-national studies have been conducted to date that investigate modifiable pandemic-related behavioral or cognitive factors that may influence mental health in this vulnerable group. This international study sought to identify and measure the associations between pandemic-related information seeking, worries, and prevention behaviors on perinatal mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. An anonymous, online, cross-sectional survey of pregnant and postpartum women was conducted in 64 countries between May 26, 2020 and June 13, 2020. The survey, available in twelve languages, was hosted on the Pregistry platform for COVID-19 studies ( https://corona.pregistry.com ) and advertised in social media channels and online parenting forums. Participants completed measures on demographics, COVID-19 exposure and worries, information seeking, COVID-19 prevention behaviors, and mental health symptoms including posttraumatic stress via the IES-6, anxiety/depression via the PHQ-4, and loneliness via the UCLA-3. Of the 6,894 participants, substantial proportions of women scored at or above the cut-offs for elevated posttraumatic stress (2,979 [43%]), anxiety/depression (2,138 [31%], and loneliness (3,691 [53%]). Information seeking from any source (e.g., social media, news, talking to others) five or more times per day was associated with more than twice the odds of elevated posttraumatic stress and anxiety/depression, in adjusted models. A majority of women (86%) reported being somewhat or very worried about COVID-19. The most commonly reported worries were related to pregnancy and delivery, including family being unable to visit after delivery (59%), the baby contracting COVID-19 (59%), lack of a support person during delivery (55%), and COVID-19 causing changes to the delivery plan (41%). Greater worries related to children (i.e., inadequate childcare, their infection risk) and missing medical appointments were associated with significantly higher odds of posttraumatic stress, anxiety/depression and loneliness. Engaging in hygiene-related COVID-19 prevention behaviors (face mask-wearing, washing hands, disinfecting surfaces) were not related to mental health symptoms or loneliness. Elevated posttraumatic stress, anxiety/depression, and loneliness are highly prevalent in pregnant and postpartum women across 64 countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Excessive information seeking and worries related to children and medical care are associated with elevated symptoms, whereas engaging in hygiene-related preventive measures were not. In addition to screening and monitoring mental health symptoms, addressing excessive information seeking and women’s worries about access to medical care and their children’s well-being, and developing strategies to target loneliness (e.g., online support groups) should be part of intervention efforts for perinatal women. Public health campaigns and medical care systems need to explicitly address the impact of COVID-19 related stressors on mental health in perinatal women, as prevention of viral exposure itself does not mitigate the pandemic’s mental health impact.
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              10 Best resources on… intersectionality with an emphasis on low- and middle-income countries.

              Intersectionality has emerged as an important framework for understanding and responding to health inequities by making visible the fluid and interconnected structures of power that create them. It promotes an understanding of the dynamic nature of the privileges and disadvantages that permeate health systems and affect health. It considers the interaction of different social stratifiers (e.g. 'race'/ethnicity, indigeneity, gender, class, sexuality, geography, age, disability/ability, migration status, religion) and the power structures that underpin them at multiple levels. In doing so, it is a departure from previous health inequalities research that looked at these forms of social stratification in isolation from one another or in an additive manner. Despite its potential use and long history in other disciplines, intersectionality is uncommonly used in health systems research in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). To orient readers to intersectionality theory and research, we first define intersectionality and describe its role in public health, and then we review resources on intersectionality. We found that applications in public health mostly increased after 2009, with only 14 out of 86 articles focused on LMICs. To arrive at 10 best resources, we selected articles based on the proportion of the article that was devoted to intersectionality, the strength of the intersectionality analysis, and its relevance to LMICs. The first four resources explain intersectionality as a methodology. The subsequent six articles apply intersectionality to research in LMIC with quantitative and qualitative analysis. We provide examples from India, Swaziland, Uganda and Mexico. Topics for the studies range from HIV, violence and sexual abuse to immunization and the use of health entitlements. Through these 10 resources, we hope to spark interest and open a needed conversation on the importance and use of intersectional analysis in LMICs as part of understanding people-centred health systems.

                Author and article information

                JMIR Res Protoc
                JMIR Res Protoc
                JMIR Research Protocols
                JMIR Publications (Toronto, Canada )
                24 April 2023
                24 April 2023
                : 12
                : e44720
                [1 ] Faculty of Health Sciences Simon Fraser University Burnaby, BC Canada
                [2 ] Institute of Population, Health and Development Hanoi Vietnam
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Bronwyn McBride bronwyn_mcbride@ 123456sfu.ca
                Author information
                ©Bronwyn McBride, John O'Neil, Phuong Chi Nguyen, Dang Thuy Linh, Hue Thi Trinh, Nguyen C Vu, Liem T Nguyen. Originally published in JMIR Research Protocols (https://www.researchprotocols.org), 24.04.2023.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Research Protocols, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on https://www.researchprotocols.org, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

                : 30 November 2022
                : 22 February 2023
                : 30 March 2023
                : 7 April 2023

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