June 14 (UPI) -- Boston Medical Center and Head Start are collaborating on program to help mothers experience a reduction in clinically significant depressive symptom episodes.
Maternal depression affects nearly 12 million women in the United States annually, and disproportionately affects low-income and minority women -- including half of all Head Start mothers.
Maternal depression can also impact families and children, with children of depressed mothers being two to three times more likely to develop a mood disorder. They are also at increased risk for impaired cognitive, social and academic functioning and physical health.
Researchers from BMC working with Action for Boston Community Development's, or ABCD, Head Start program, screened more than 2,200 mothers for their depression risk over a five-year period within Head Start sites in the Boston area.
They used lay health workers to provide depression prevention intervention in a community-based agency.
For the study, BMC trained and certified 15 lay health workers to provide a program called Problem Solving Education, or PSE, in Head Start services.
The study showed mothers who went through the PSE sessions had a 40 percent reduction in clinically significant depressive symptom episodes. In participants whose initial assessment showed low depressive symptoms, they experienced a 61 percent reduction in depressive symptoms after the PSE sessions.
"Our novel approach to depression as a preventable illness, and to harnessing the ability of Head Start to reach vulnerable families in a community setting, has allowed us to truly make an impact on preventing maternal depression or on stopping low-level symptoms from getting worse," Dr. Michael Silverstein, BMC's associate chief medical officer for research and population health, said in a press release.
The study was published June 14 in JAMA Psychiatry.