Mi PROTECT: A personalized smartphone platform to report back results to participants of a maternal-child and environmental health research cohort program in Puerto Rico

PLOS Digit Health. 2023 Jan 18;2(1):e0000172. doi: 10.1371/journal.pdig.0000172. eCollection 2023 Jan.


Background: The PROTECT Center is a multi-project initiative that studies the relationship between exposure to environmental contaminants and preterm births during the prenatal and postnatal period among women living in Puerto Rico. PROTECT's Community Engagement Core and Research Translation Coordinator (CEC/RTC) play a key role in building trust and capacity by approaching the cohort as an engaged community that provides feedback about processes, including how personalized results of their exposure to chemicals should be reported back. The goal of the Mi PROTECT platform was to create a mobile-based application of DERBI (Digital Exposure Report-Back Interface) for our cohort that provides tailored, culturally appropriate information about individual contaminant exposures as well as education on chemical substances and approaches to exposure reduction.

Methods: Participants (N = 61) were presented with commonly used terms in environmental health research related to collected samples and biomarkers, followed by a guided training on accessing and exploring the Mi PROTECT platform. Participants evaluated the guided training and Mi PROTECT platform answering a Likert scale in separated surveys that included 13 and 8 questions, respectively.

Results: Participants provided overwhelmingly positive feedback on the clarity and fluency of presenters in the report-back training. Most participants reported that the mobile phone platform was both accessible and easy to navigate (83% and 80%, respectively) and that images included in the platform facilitated comprehension of the information. Overall, most participants (83%) reported that language, images, and examples in Mi PROTECT strongly represented them as Puerto Ricans.

Conclusions: Findings from the Mi PROTECT pilot test informed investigators, community partners and stakeholders by demonstrating a new way to promote stakeholder participation and foster the "research right-to-know."