Community-based participatory research; life course perspective; maternal and child health; focus groups; risk factors


Community-Based Research | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Epidemiology | Maternal and Child Health | Public Health


Little is known about the patterns of risk factors experienced by communities of color and how diverse community contexts shape the health trajectory of women from the early childhood period to the time of their pregnancies. Thus, we conducted a focus group study to identify social risks over the life course that contribute to maternal and child health from the perspective of community members residing in low income urban areas.

Ten community-based participatory focus groups were conducted with residents from selected communities in Tampa, Florida, from September to November 2013. We used the life course perspective to illuminate and explain the experiences reported by the interviewees.

A total of 78 residents participated in the focus groups. Children and adolescents’ health risks were childhood obesity, lack of physical activity, and low self-esteem. Women’s health risks were low self-esteem, low educational level, low health literacy, inadequate parenting skills, and financial problems. Risks during pregnancy included stress, low self-esteem, inadequate eating patterns, lack of physical activity, healthcare issues, lack of social support, and lack of father involvement during pregnancy.

Multiple risk factors contribute to maternal and child health in low income communities in Tampa Bay. The intersection of risk factors in different life periods suggest possible pathways, cumulative, and latent effects, which must be considered in future longitudinal studies and when developing effective maternal and child health programs and policies.