Developing a programmatic approach to user-led design and engagement for a regional perinatal health

Health equity is at the heart of Apollo’s mission, so we are excited to announce our partnership with South West Academic Health Science Network (SWAHSN) to develop a user-led design and engagement strategy working with ‘seldom heard’ or ‘easy to ignore’ communities in the South West UK. The partnership’s goals are to understand the barriers and enablers to accessing perinatal health care in the South West, with the outcomes of this project informing the future development of broader health equity programmes across the region.


Inequalities in access and outcomes to perinatal services are widely acknowledged in the UK (Allen & Sesti, 2018; McLeish & Redshaw, 2017). For example, the Ethnic and Socio-economic Inequalities in NHS Maternity and Perinatal Care for Women and their Babies report (2021) describes the impact of perinatal inequalities in Great Britain, affecting over 1.37 million birthing parents and their babies.


However, discovering the attitudes and experiences of parents from ‘seldom heard’ or ‘easy to ignore’ groups concerning their perinatal journey remains under-researched and poorly understood. This area of research closely aligns with Apollo’s mission to democratise access to healthcare and improve health outcomes in the UK. The NHS is working to improve equity of perinatal outcomes as demonstrated in their five priority areas, associated interventions outlined in the equity and equality guidance for local maternity systems (2021) and Four Pledges to Improve Equity for mothers, babies and staff (2021). Such policy commitments are further enforced in the NHS Long Term Plan’s (2019) ambitions to reduce health inequalities experienced by Black and minority ethnic individuals across England over the next ten years.

As a part of this programme of work, Apollo has completed a review of the literature that illustrates the barriers and enablers of accessing perinatal services and their subsequent impact on patient outcomes. We have subsequently conducted interviews and focus groups with people who encountered inequity in access to perinatal health services to understand their experiences and identify their ideas for service improvement and innovation. As a final step, Apollo will co-create a user-led design and engagement toolkit and training programme to support the design, delivery and evaluation of health equity programmes across the South West.


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