Background: Appalachian Kentucky has higher-than-average rates of preterm birth (PTB)—a health disparity associated with increased maternal and fetal/neonatal morbidity and neonatal mortality. Transvaginal ultrasound (TVU) cervical length measurement is the best predictor of PTB risk, but is underutilized in Appalachia. This study explores prenatal care providers' TVU-related knowledge and practices, and identifies barriers and facilitators, which impact the adoption of this evidence-based technology.

Materials and Methods: This study recruited providers from three Appalachian Kentucky health care sites. Prenatal care providers took part in semistructured interviews and completed brief survey scales. Questions focused on PTB knowledge, TVU-related barriers, and suggestions for clinician and/or patient-focused interventions. Transcripts were coded using a multistage process based in grounded theory. Descriptive statistics were calculated.

Results: Eleven physicians, one nurse practitioner, one physician assistant, and one midwife completed interviews. Average participant age was 44 years with 17 years in practice; 43% of providers were female. Practitioners described the sociodemographic characteristics, health behaviors (e.g., smoking, opioid abuse), and comorbid conditions (e.g., obesity, hypertension, and diabetes) endemic in Appalachia that heightened their patients' PTB risk. TVU use was reported as important by all respondents, but not all were satisfied with their level of training. The most commonly identified barriers to TVU were patient access to transportation and social support. Participants stressed a need for changing community perceptions regarding consequences of PTB.

Conclusions: Providers identified multiple TVU-related barriers and facilitators. These data will inform the design of a multifaceted dissemination and implementation strategy targeting PTB prevention in Appalachia.

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Published in Women’s Health Reports, v 1, no. 1.

© Anna Hansen et al. 2020

This Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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This project was supported by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health (through Grant UL1TR001998), and the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health Program (through ORWH and NIDA grant: K12DA035150) (both awarded to NRC).