Discovery Research


For some people, zip code may have more influence over their health than their genetic code



Women in a circle

About our California Discovery Research

The mechanisms affecting preterm birth span an incredible range, from molecular to social, making it a complex issue to tackle. To reduce preterm birth rates, we examine the full picture of risk, from examining molecular contributors such as inflammation and genetics; clinical factors like hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and depression; and place-based social and historical contributors such as structural racism; housing, food security, violence, and environmental toxins. This integrated approach, called “precision health”, helps us better understand how cell-to-society factors work together to influence preterm birth and associated disparities in mothers and babies.  

Within this frame, we are particularly interested in understanding and addressing patterns and drivers of preterm birth among Black and Hispanic/Latina women, as they experience higher rates and greater burdens of preterm birth, in San Francisco, Oakland, and Fresno. Consequently, our work focuses on understanding rates, onset, and outcomes of preterm birth among women and infants in these groups, as well as risk and resiliency factors. 

Collaboration Across Disciplines

Our transdisciplinary discovery collaborative spans ten departments at UCSF and includes partners from UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, Stanford University, Fresno State University, the University of Iowa, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Since 2018, the collaborative – which plays a key role in all of our Discovery research efforts in that it allows for the contribution of expertise from multiple perspectives – has produced 55 published manuscripts, and as of the end of July 2020, 15 additional manuscripts are in review or in revision

Transdisciplinary Collaborative

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Image of molecule, image of pregnant woman wearing a mask, image a baby being held by a parent

The HOPE COVID-19 Study

The first-of-its-kind study focused on finding out how the virus and its social impact is affecting pregnant women, birthing persons, and infants.

The Study

The HOPE COVID-19 Study is looking at how the virus that causes COVID-19 and factors associated with the pandemic like stress and social distancing might affect a woman or birthing person's risk for certain kinds of adverse pregnancy outcomes, like preterm birth and preeclampsia, as well as newborn and infant health.

We are especially interested in how the pandemic is affecting low-income and Black and Brown women and birthing persons who often suffer the impacts of systematic racism and are already at increased risk for adverse outcomes.

Who Can Participate and How

  • Survey only cohort:
    Pregnant women and birthing persons who are 18 years of age or older can participate by filling out surveys during pregnancy until their baby is 18 months old. Currently enrolling!!
  • The survey + testing cohort:
    Pregnant women and birthing persons who are 18 years of age or older can participate by filling out surveys and having laboratory testing done during pregnancy until their baby is 18-months old. Participants can recieve up to $550 in gift cards! Enrolling late summer 2020.

Read More!

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Mapping Preterm Birth Outcomes

Fresno County

Our work examining patterns of preterm birth in urban, suburban and rural areas of Fresno (Baer et al., J Epidemiol Res., 2018) was powerful for PTBi-CA, allowing our initiative to launch an interactive mapping website that allows parents, community members, public health professionals, clinicians, and researchers to interactively explore patterns of preterm birth in Fresno County. For example, using this tool, users can examine patterns of preterm birth within county neighborhoods along with levels of air pollution in those same communities. Given the established links between preterm birth and air pollution by our group and others, this mapping information could lead to interventions aimed at decreasing exposure to air toxins and particulate matter. 

Fresno Mapping Tool

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San Francisco County

Coming soon!