Teenage Mothers of Black and Minority Ethnic Origin Want Access To a Range of Mental and Physical Health Support: a Participatory Research Approach

Muzik M, Kirk R, Alfafara E, Jonika J, Waddell R
Source: Health Expect
Publication Year: 2016
Patient Need Addressed: Maternal/perinatal
Population Focus: Low income, Vulnerable/disadvantaged
Demographic Group: Racial and ethnic minority groups, Women
Study Design: Other Study Design
Type of Literature: white

In high risk, economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, such as those primarily resident by black and minority ethnic groups (BME), teenage pregnancies are relatively more frequent. Such families often have limited access to and/or knowledge of services, including prenatal and post-partum physical and mental health support.

To explore preferences held by vulnerable young mothers of BME origin and those close to them about existing and desired perinatal health services.

Drawing on a community-based participatory approach, a community steering committee with local knowledge and experience of teenage parenthood shaped and managed an exploratory qualitative study. In collaboration with a local agency and academic research staff, community research assistants conducted two focus groups with 19 members and 21 individual semi-structured interviews with young mothers of BME origin and their friends or relatives. These were coded, thematically analyzed, interpreted and subsequently triangulated through facilitator and participant review and discussion.

Despite perceptions of a prevalent local culture of mistrust and suspicion, a number of themes and accompanying recommendations emerged. These included a lack of awareness by mothers of BME origin about current perinatal health services, as well as program inaccessibility and inadequacy. There was a desire to engage with a continuum of comprehensive and well-publicized, family-focused perinatal health services. Participants wanted inclusion of maternal mental health and parenting support that addressed the whole family.

It is both ethical and equitable that comprehensive perinatal services are planned and developed following consultation and participation of knowledgeable community members including young mothers of BME origin, family and friends.

Insights Results

Overview of article

  • This article explores preferences held by vulnerable young mothers of black and minority ethnic groups (BME) and those close to them about existing and desired perinatal health services

Methods of article

  • The research team conducted 2 focus groups with 19 members and 21 individual semi-structured interviews with young mothers of BME origin and their friends or relatives
  • The research team used a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach, which is based upon the premise that those who use services know best what they need. The purpose of CBPR is to increase knowledge on a particular subject with the broader goal of improving the health and quality of life of community members by bringing together researchers and communities in a balanced collaboration of equals


  • Results fell into 2 themes: 1) Use of current services; and 2) Preferences for future services
  • Under the first theme, use of current services, findings include: 1) Inadequate quantity and range of current services – unmet needs remained after service; 2) Lack of knowledge of the full range of services available; and 3) Suspicion and mistrust in the community and support agencies;
  • Under the second theme, preferences for future services, preferences include: 1) Increase in family-focused support; 2) Increased accessibility to a range of group and
    individual, community-based, health, welfare and education support services; and 3) Integration of mental health services into the continuum

Key takeaways/implications

  • Underlying mistrust and suspicion was an underlying reason for poor uptake. Communication must be improved. Communication strategies include word of mouth, flyers, door-to-door contact, and social media
  • Building on this project, a comprehensive, collaborative need assessment is required in which teenage mothers and local community residents or activists identify service gaps and duplications and help shape the dissemination process about future service development
  • The importance of mental health services was illuminated through this study. Interventions that tackle the multi-faceted nature of mental health services are necessary
  • Community participation was valuable in evaluating the practicality and relevance of findings to the community
  • Limitations to the study include use of a convenience sample, use of local residents for recruitment, and small sample size