Research in California

California data clearly indicate a disproportionate burden of prematurity among low-income and women of color. PTBi California’s mission is to close the gap in preterm birth disparities in the city of Oakland, San Francisco and Fresno Counties, so women and babies have equally good birth outcomes regardless of racial/ethnic background or socioeconomic status.


Community engagement is the cornerstone of our work to reduce the personal and society costs of preterm birth.

We work in direct partnership with each of these California communities to establish a unique evidence base for effective research and interventions. Our Community-Engaged Research Platforms establish place-based infrastructure to incubate ongoing collaboration with community members as co-researchers and investigators, in order to unlock the possibility of transdisciplinary discovery. In this regard, the entire PTBi-CA research portfolio reflects the place-based specific needs of all three target geographies. 


Our Discovery Efforts use a precision health approach to isolate factors that exacerbate or reduce the risk of preterm birth.

Trying to tackle prematurity is difficult because it is a complex, multi-factorial problem. The mechanisms are molecular, physiological, social, economic, genetic, developmental, and cultural. Therefore, we have to examine the full picture: from biological risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and depression — to place-based social determinants like housing, food security, violence, and environmental toxins. This integrated approach, called ‘precision health’, helps us better understand how both cell and society factors work together to influence health outcomes and disparities in mothers and babies.

We also fund innovative ideas proposed by UCSF researchers and community partners.


Several interventions effectively reduce preterm birth risk or improve outcomes for preterm babies, but they are not routinely practiced.

Many of the most effective interventions for preterm birth are low-tech, low-cost, and widely available. Yet all too frequently these interventions go unused by the people who need them most. As a result, PTBi-CA is working to understand and remove the behavioral, structural, and policy-level barriers that impede scale-up of interventions that successfully combat preterm birth.

PTBi-CA is investing in innovative research that focuses on expansion of group prenatal care, improving micro- and macro-nutrition during pregnancy, early diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases in pregnancy (such as high blood pressure or diabetes) to improve birth outcomes, and social marketing/media strategies to best reach young women at risk for preterm birth so that they are as healthy as can be before pregnancy.

We also know that there are interventions that can improve outcomes for preterm babies that haven’t been fully implemented, such as skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care, breastfeeding support, better integration of families as care partners with the NICU team, and high quality transition to home and at-home care. We have established the PTBi-CA Newborn and Family Research Collaborative (NFRC) to provide an infrastructure to efficiently implement effective interventions to scale and test other promising postnatal interventions. By catalyzing collaboration among healthcare providers, families and other key stakeholders, we believe we will identify place-based interventions which are acceptable, feasible, scalable and effective in improving outcomes for preterm infants and their families.


We also work to develop promising new interventions across the reproductive life course.

We are partnering to develop sensor and remote access technologies that predict preterm birth risk, detect early preterm labor, and monitor temperature and vital signs of preterm babies. In addition, we are creating mobile technologies that improve access to and quality of education and support for parents-to-be and parents of preterm babies.