Creating a culture of health for perinatal women with mental illness: A community-engaged policy and research initiative

Emily Dossett, Holly Kiger, M. A. Munevar, Natalia Garcia, Christianne Joy Lane, Patricia Lee King, Martha Escudero, Sherrie Segovia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Maternal mental health disorders (MMHDs) affect 35% to 40% of low-income, minority, perinatal women and negatively impact these women, their newborns, families, and communities. However, MMHDs are overlooked or stigmatized by medical systems, families, and women themselves. Objectives: We sought to answer the following research questions: 1) What lessons can we learn about maternal mental health in our local neighborhoods by creating and engaging with a community advisory board (CAB)? 2) What policy recommendations can we formulate with the CAB to address MMHDs among a low-income Latino population? Methods: We conducted a qualitative research study guided by a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach. We built on long-term relationships as well as newly identified organizations to develop a CAB of community service providers. We also drew from the perspective of two focus groups of women in the community who had experienced a MMHD. We engaged in an 18-month, iterative process focused on mutual sharing to learn about community perspectives on maternal mental health care barriers and solutions. Researchers and the CAB then created a community policy brief. Results: We developed a CAB and facilitated two focus groups. Together we gleaned a stronger understanding of the importance of education, culture, the patient–provider relationship, and community-based resources. We built on these findings to create specific policy recommendations. Conclusions: Engaging the CAB and facilitating focus groups informed our understanding of MMHDs from a community perspective, grounding our results and policy in culturally sensitive ways. We developed partnerships between researchers and community providers that can continue to reduce barriers and create solutions to maternal mental health care in our community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-144
Number of pages10
JournalProgress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Community health services
  • Depression
  • Mental health services
  • Mental health services
  • Postpartum
  • Poverty
  • Public health
  • Women’s health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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