"We bleed for our community:" A qualitative exploration of the implementation of a pragmatic weight gain prevention trial from the perspectives of community health center professionals.

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Clinical trial implementation continues to shift toward pragmatic design, with the goal of increasing future adoption in clinical practice. Yet, few pragmatic trials within clinical settings have qualitatively assessed stakeholder input, especially from those most impacted by research implementation and outcomes, i.e., providers and staff. Within this context, we conducted a qualitative study of the implementation of a pragmatic digital health obesity trial with employees at a Federally qualified health center (FQHC) network in central North Carolina.


Participant recruitment was conducted through purposive sampling of FQHC employees from a variety of backgrounds. Two researchers conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews and collected demographic data. Interviews were digitally recorded, professionally transcribed and double-coded by two independent researchers using NVivo 12. Coding discrepancies were reviewed by a third researcher until intercoder consensus was reached. Responses were compared within and across participants to elucidate emergent themes.


Eighteen qualitative interviews were conducted, of whom 39% provided direct medical care to patients and 44% worked at the FQHC for at least seven years. Results illuminated the challenges and successes of a pragmatically designed obesity treatment intervention within the community that serves medically vulnerable patients. Although limited time and staffing shortages may have challenged recruitment processes, respondents described early buy-in from leadership; an alignment of organizational and research goals; and consideration of patient needs as facilitators to implementation. Respondents also described the need for personnel power to sustain novel research interventions and considerations of health center resource constraints.


Results from this study contribute to the limited literature on pragmatic trials utilizing qualitative methods, particularly in community-based obesity treatment. To continue to merge the gaps between research implementation and clinical care, qualitative assessments that solicit stakeholder input are needed within pragmatic trial design. For maximum impact, researchers may wish to solicit input from a variety of professionals at trial onset and ensure that shared common goals and open collaboration between all partners is maintained throughout the trial.

Trial registration

This trial was registered with ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT03003403) on December 28, 2016.





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Berger, Miriam B, Miriam Chisholm, Hailey N Miller, Sandy Askew, Melissa C Kay and Gary G Bennett (2023). "We bleed for our community:" A qualitative exploration of the implementation of a pragmatic weight gain prevention trial from the perspectives of community health center professionals. BMC public health, 23(1). p. 695. 10.1186/s12889-023-15574-2 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27254.

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Melissa Kay

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Melissa Kay is a public health nutritionist conducting research in support of early life obesity prevention. Her educational background includes public health, food policy and applied nutrition, epidemiology, and nutrition interventions. She is currently faculty in the Department of Pediatrics and is using digital technologies to augment clinical care between primary care visits as well as visits with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Using interactive text messaging, Dr. Kay supports caregivers in adopting healthy feeding behaviors for themselves and their families.  

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