Newswise — 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 Perinatal Psychiatry Access Programs available to pregnant and postpartum women across the United States.

Perinatal depression affects 1 in 7 women during pregnancy or within a year of birth. In the United States, less than 20% of pregnant and postpartum women who screen positive for depression engage in initial psychiatric treatment and follow-up.

“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, state-wide programs are being created to support healthcare 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,” he added.

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 estimate which programs are most likely to improve access and quality of care for 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 healthcare decisions

This research will be done in close collaboration with critical stakeholders and Access Program teams: Postpartum Support International, a national advocacy organization committed to women with lived experiences in improving the mental healthcare for pregnant or postpartum women; the Partnership Access Line for Moms housed in Washington State; and the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program for Moms. Leveraging these relationships, the prior work of the teams’ PCORI-funded Pipeline to Proposal Award and currently funded National Network of Perinatal Psychiatry Access Programs, the study will ensure the research is responsive to stakeholders needs and their environments and provide a platform for dissemination.