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Downstate University Experts to Improve Perinatal Mental Health Through $3.1M Study

The study is aimed at addressing the disparities in mental health outcomes for people who have recently given birth.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Health experts at the SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University have received a $3.1 million six-year sub-contract to research and address the disparities in perinatal mental health outcomes, the university said in a press release.

The study, titled "Pathways to Perinatal Health Equity Research Study," was chosen as part of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) funding initiative aimed at enhancing maternal health outcomes.

The university's Health and Policy chair, Dr. Thomas I. Mackie, will lead the team of co-researchers Camille A. Clare, the chair in the College of Medicine, and Azure B. Thompson, the assistant professor at the School of Public Health. The experts will collaborate with Postpartum Support International (PSI) and the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School (UMass Chan), the lead institution in the project.

Nancy Byatt, a psychiatry professor at UMass Chan, will lead the research project alongside PSI Executive Director Wendy Davis. Downstate Health Sciences University said the study is a cluster randomized control trial that will compare two models aimed at improving mood and anxiety disorder care in 32 OB practices nationwide.

The study will follow the medical and healthcare-community models, respectively. They will incorporate anti-racism training, trauma-informed care training and screening and referrals for social determinants of health to achieve equity in perinatal mental health care.

The Downstate Health Sciences University experts will lead the healthcare community partnership model.

Mackie said both models are centered towards equity and will benefit marginalized groups.

“The leading cause of maternal mortality in the US is mental health and substance use disorders. Many people, especially those who are marginalized don’t get the care they need. With this grant, we’re excited to work with UMass Chan Medical School and PSI to test two ways to improve access to mental healthcare for underserved populations," Mackie said.