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December 12, 2023

UMass Chan researchers to lead $21M maternal mental health equity study

A building with a sign that reads "UMass Chan Medical School" behind two trees PHOTO | Courtesy of UMass Chan Medical School UMass Chan Medical School in Worcester

Researchers from UMass Chan Medical School in Worcester will lead work on a maternal mental health equity study using a $21-million grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute in Washington, D.C.

The study will examine the equity implications of different models of perinatal care, according to a Thursday announcement from UMass Chan. Perinatal refers to pregnant women and new mothers and covers the time periods before and after birth.

As part of the study, researchers from UMass Chan and Oregon nonprofit Postpartum Support International will compare patient outcomes using two different models, one which involves community-care through peer support. The study will  involve 32 OB-GYN practices across the country. 

The goal of the study is to identify effective approaches to perinatal mental health care and ways to scale them to increase access to needed care. Health equity will be at the forefront of the study and include trauma-informed care, implicit bias training, and social determinants of health.

The study, called Pathways to Perinatal Mental Health Equity, will be led by Dr. Nancy Byatt, UMass Chan professor of psychiatry, obstetrics & gynecology, and population & quantitative health sciences; Christopher Sheldrick, professor of psychiatry; and Wendy Davis, executive director of Postpartum Support International.

“Mental health and substance use disorders are the leading cause of maternal mortality in the United States. Most perinatal individuals do not have access to the mental health care they need,” Byatt said in the announcement. 

The study aims to address maternal mental health concerns equitably, including substance abuse issues, across patients of different backgrounds.

“This multiyear study is a unique opportunity to build on the strength of a health care-community partnership to increase perinatal providers’ ability to integrate trauma-informed care with peer support, increasing individuals’ access to treatment that best meets their needs. Equally important, however, is generating scientific evidence on the most effective interventions for addressing inequities,” said Davis said in the announcement.

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