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Working Together to Improve Mental Health Outcomes for New Parents

December 21, 2021

The AAP and other health organizations recommend routine screening for parental Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs), because they are a leading cause of postpartum death, and they are also associated with poor outcomes for the family, parent, and child. However, many pediatricians are reluctant to routinely screen, because there are few mental health resources in the community. If you can’t do anything when someone screens positive, then why even ask the question?

This week, Pediatrics is early releasing an Advocacy Case Study by Dr. Lenore Jarvis and colleagues at Children’s National, entitled “Perinatal Mental Health Task Force: Integrating Care Across a Pediatric Hospital Setting” (10.1542/peds.2021-050300). In this case study, the authors describe how multiple divisions at their hospital worked together to develop a consistent, cohesive program to help parents (mothers AND fathers, as both can experience PMAD). Because multiple divisions were involved in this task force, they were able to share best practices and resources. They found strength in numbers – because parents with PMAD were seen in multiple divisions (NICU, emergency department, primary care), they were able to better advocate with hospital leadership to obtain additional personnel, particularly mental health specialists. They worked together to apply for additional grant funding—the hospital leadership even identified universal mental health screening as a corporate goal!

We too often work in silos. When you read this article, you will be struck by the collaborations that were developed – and frankly envious of what this task force has accomplished! But I think that it will also spur brainstorming about which aspects of this could be incorporated in your own clinical setting.

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