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Rutgers School of Public Health assistant professor Thomas Mackie was awarded a $4.1 million contract from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study the effectiveness of mental health programs available to pregnant women across the United States suffering with depression.

Perinatal depression, which strikes before and after childbirth, affects 1 in 7 women during pregnancy or within a year of birth. In the United States, less than 20 percent of pregnant and postpartum women who screen positive for depression seek psychiatric treatment before giving birth or follow-up care after the baby is born.

“Perinatal depression negatively impacts the birth, mother and infant bonding, and children’s behavior and development,” said Mackie, who is also a core faculty member at the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research. “In response to this public health crisis, statewide programs are being created to support health care providers – like obstetricians and pediatricians – with acquiring the training and resources necessary to treat the signs and symptoms of depression in pregnant women and those who have recently given birth.”

These programs, called Perinatal Psychiatry Access Programs, are being developed or used to increase access and improve quality in at least 15 states.

Led by Mackie and Nancy Byatt, associate professor at University of Massachusetts Medical School, the PCORI contract will examine three innovative Perinatal Psychiatry Access Programs in Washington, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, to determine which programs are most likely to improve access and quality of care for treating perinatal depression. The team will specifically examine whether Perinatal Psychiatry Access Programs that implement training, consultation, and/or care coordination improve access and quality of perinatal care the most.

PCORI, an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010, is funding Mackie and Byatt’s research in order to provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed health care decisions

This research will be done in close collaboration with those involved in providing care to women suffering with depression including: Postpartum Support International, a national advocacy organization committed to improving mental health care for pregnant or postpartum women; the Partnership Access Line for Moms, housed in Washington State; and the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program for Moms.