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Publication Date

1-30-2018

Keywords

homeless persons, pregnancy, infant mortality, service-learning, health status disparities, women, domestic violence, shelter

Abstract

Purpose: Women who experience homelessness during pregnancy have poorer birth outcomes than the general population. This exploratory research describes the needs assessment of homeless women currently living at a shelter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to identify unmet needs related to maternal and infant perinatal health as the first step in designing a mutually beneficial patient-centered service-learning program for medical students to address these needs.

Methods: Two 1-hour focus groups were held at a shelter for women who are homeless and/or victims of domestic violence. A total of 13 women participated in each session; four medical students and a physician served as facilitators and scribes at each session. The facilitators alternated asking predetermined open- and close-ended questions, followed by discussion among participants. Questions elicited experiences during pregnancy, what went well, what women living in the shelter struggled with, and what support they wished for but did not have. Scribes captured the conversation through hand-written notes and used content analysis in order of frequency.

Results: Thirteen themes were identified. The 5 most frequently identified themes were a need for pregnancy education, access/transportation, baby care, advocacy, and material necessities. Participating shelter residents and the medical students expressed interest in working with one another and forming a long-term partnership with the shelter.

Conclusions: Results of this needs assessment will inform the creation of a new shelter-based medical education program that will meet homeless women’s needs while preparing medical students for patient-centered, community-responsive care.

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