Working in close collaboration with patient-partners, the Iowa Perinatal Health Research Collaborative held a two-day virtual conference April 23-24, 2021, titled “Perinatal Connect Conference: Engaging with Rural Communities to Improve Maternal Mental Health Outcomes.” The purpose of the conference was to convene multi-stakeholders, including patients, providers, researchers, and health systems leaders, to accelerate perinatal depression patient-centered outcomes research in rural communities.
Rural Communities and Perinatal Depression
Depression during the perinatal period is the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth, affecting 1 in 8 women in the United States. Women in rural areas are disproportionately more likely to experience depression during the perinatal period. The conference included speakers from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), PCORI-funded researchers and their patient-partners, and health systems leaders working to create and implement programs and policies that provide equitable access to care for postpartum patients in rural communities.
Overall, the conference had 447 registrants representing 40 states and 15 countries. Attendees included patients or caregivers, individuals affiliated with community-based or advocacy organizations, clinicians, researchers, and policy makers.
The conference also had four separate patient-led panel discussions that followed each of the plenary sessions and focused on the following themes: 1) engaging rural communities, 2) improving maternal mental health outcomes, 3) engaging health systems to improve care, and 3) addressing social and structural factors impacting maternal health outcomes in rural communities.
Developing a Strategic Roadmap
The discussion and visual notes from the conference were used to develop a stakeholder-driven strategic roadmap infographic (see above) for engaging in patient-centered outcomes research. The strategic roadmap outlines how rural access programs are a bridge to collaborative mental health care that have substantial opportunity to improve maternal mental health outcomes. The effectiveness of these programs needs to be assessed with specific focus on education that addresses mental health stigma, insurance coverage that includes a full year of postpartum care, and building trust within the community. The roadmap was reviewed by the Iowa Community Advisory Board and the Illinois IDEA Women’s Health Coalition as well as patient and clinical partners.
The conference has better prepared a wide range of stakeholders to engage in patient-centered outcomes research and comparative effectiveness research on perinatal depression in rural communities. Registrants of the conference will receive follow-up emails that outline their access to all session videos, a written conference summary, visual notes, and the finalized stakeholder-driven strategic roadmap.
Learn more about the Iowa Perinatal Health Research Collaborative.