Mother and baby health care

Albuquerque – The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center has been approved for a $41,000 funding award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to support a project on perinatal mood disorders (PMDs).

UNM College of Nursing Assistant Professor Sharon Ruyak, PhD, MS, will use the funds provided through PCORI’s Pipeline to Proposal Awards program to build a partnership of individuals and groups who share a desire to advance patient-centered outcomes research focused on PMDs.

Pipeline to Proposal Awards enable individuals and groups that are not typically involved in clinical research to develop the means to cultivate community-led funding proposals focused on patient-centered comparative effectiveness research (CER). Established by the non-profit PCORI, the program funds help individuals or groups build community partnerships, develop research capacity, and hone a comparative effectiveness research question that could become the basis of a research-funding proposal to submit to PCORI or other health research funders.

Perinatal mood disorders, a devastating complication of pregnancy, affect up to 25 percent of women nationally, with socioeconomically disadvantaged women at highest risk. PMDs are associated with adverse maternal outcomes that may include emotional disturbance, disability, impaired childcare practices, and, in some cases, suicide and infanticide. Alarmingly, many women do not receive treatment due to underidentification, limited or no access to care providers, stigma, and time and/or financial constraints.

Women in New Mexico are at high risk for PMDs, as the state consistently ranks as one of the most socially disadvantaged for its limited access to health care. Among New Mexican women, 21 percent live in poverty and 33 percent live in rural areas; furthermore, 30 percent of women of childbearing age are Hispanic, a group estimated to have a three to four times higher risk of perinatal depression. PMDs also affect infants, having been associated with pre-term birth and low birth weight, as well as adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes.

The goal of this project is to build community, health care and research capacities to address the critical gap in perinatal care. “Our group is very excited to work alongside stakeholders from across the state to build capacity for community partnerships,” Ruyak says. “We will bring together women who have experienced perinatal mood disorders alongside health care providers, researchers and other stakeholders.” 

Through these collaborative efforts, Ruyaks says they will develop the New Mexico Perinatal Mental Health Improvement Network. As the network moves forward, they plan to build on the strength and resources of the community to conduct research that focuses on these identified key issues.

PCORI is an independent, non-profit organization authorized by Congress in 2010 to fund comparative effectiveness research that will provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence needed to make better-informed health and healthcare decisions. PCORI is committed to seeking input from a broad range of stakeholders to guide its work.