How We Work

Example: Improving Maternal Mental Health

The Challenge

LA Best Babies Network employs five interrelated strategies to improve the health and well-being of women and families in Los Angeles County. A prime illustration is the Network’s efforts around perinatal depression, a major public health concern, and one that can have devastating emotional and financial costs. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, from 5% to 25% percent of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression. Depression during pregnancy can lead to low birthweight, a lack of bonding between mother and child, and can adversely affect the baby’s cognitive and physical development. And yet, treatment through psychotherapy or a combination of therapy and anti-depressant medication can offer quick relief. There is no reason for a woman to endure prolonged suffering, endangering herself and her baby.

The Solution

LA Best Babies Network’s collaborative approach to maternal depression is one example of turning good ideas into action and improved health for families and their communities.

The Network focuses on five interrelated strategies to help create a healthier future for newborns and their families:

1. Caring for Mothers-To-Be

The Best Babies Collaboratives comprise more than 40 agencies in communities with a concentration of high-risk pregnancies. These agencies work together to improve and expand perinatal care through intensive case management, social support, sharing of best practices, and health education. A case manager works with a client for two years, acting as mentor and wellness coach. She becomes attuned to her client's needs and is also trained to screen for perinatal depression. If a client screens positive for depression, her case manager can then link her to resources such as mental health professionals and psychosocial support services.

2. Improving the Quality of Perinatal Care

The Healthy Births Care Quality Collaborative is a cooperative effort among 10 clinics to provide high-quality, comprehensive, and culturally sensitive perinatal care. The clinics emphasize early and frequent screening, with the goals of detection, treatment, and prevention of conditions like depression. With the Network's support, the clinics are continuously enhancing their ability to deliver evidence-based care, engaging patients in the management of their own health, and discovering how to improve the healthcare system itself.

3. Creating a Network of Caregivers and Advocates

The Healthy Births Learning Collaboratives provide a community-driven forum for perinatal caregivers and advocates to exchange ideas and experiences, keep current on best practices, and coordinate strategies and solutions to improve the health and well-being of their communities. The Network offers workshops and training materials on maternal depression, as well as links perinatal caregivers and advocates to available resources. Most important, these workshops and community meetings stimulate collaboration to solve community needs.

4. Sharing Knowledge and Resources

Network staff provide a support system for the collaboratives and other strategic partners. This includes assistance with program-planning, project-management, and training. The Network helps its members to confront challenges like maternal depression by keeping them up-to-date with the latest research, educational materials, and web-based data sharing. The Network also helps synchronize members' and partners' efforts, in order to avoid duplication and, more importantly, to avoid gaps. Network members collaborated with the agency, 211 LA County, in the creation of a comprehensive database of caregivers and advocates for women suffering from maternal depression.

5. Advancing Policies that Advance Healthy Births

The Network partners with several organizations and communities to craft policies that promote the health and well-being of pregnant women and their babies. In 2009, the Network issued the policy statement Access to Quality Care for Maternal Depression: Meeting the Challenge  and its landscape report on perinatal depression in Los Angeles County, In November 2009, the Network convened the first Perinatal Depression Roundtable, which led to concrete recommendations for improving and expanding perinatal depression services, and solidified the Network's policy agenda which calls for increased resource allocation for maternal depression, identifies best practices for its treatment, and outlines changes at the legislative level that would raise the standard of mental health care for all pregnant women. These include universal screening for depression, insurance coverage for its treatment, and more educational opportunities for health professionals.