Fifteen million children live in households with parents who have major or severe depression.
This staggering fact comes from a 2010 report released by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine entitled “Depression in Parents, Parenting and Children.” In addition to highlighting the magnitude of the problem, the report called upon the scientific community to research and develop new, innovative strategies to address depression in parents to promote children’s mental health.
A team of Yale researchers will answer that call by creating a novel web-based community and smartphone application. Currently being called Momba, the application will utilize features modeled after some of the most successful social networking tools.
It will be a network of pregnant and new mothers where participants can post their latest activities and other community news, "check-in" at locations, and map nearby health and mental health services. The app will also suggest age-appropriate activities for infants, connect users with national experts in family health and social service, and incorporate rewards for extended participation.
A pilot study will recruit first-time, low-income mothers residing in New Haven, Connecticut who are delivering a baby at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Those mothers will be provided with a smartphone, internet connectivity, and access to this web-based community. A community health worker will train the mothers how to use the technology to minimize attrition and loss of data.
The research team includes Linda Mayes, MD, Arnold Gesell Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology in the Child Study Center; Megan Smith, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and in the Child Study Center; and Frederick Shic, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Child Study Center and of Computer Science.
Dr. Mayes is an expert in maternal–infant attachment and the effects of maternal psychopathology on infant and child outcomes; Dr. Smith specializes in social networks, perinatal mental health, and psychiatric epidemiology; and Dr. Shic is a computer scientist and developmental researcher with video game and mobile application experience.
Kathryn (Kathy) Cochran has been recruited back to Yale in the role of Executive Director of Momba. She is returning to the Yale Child Study Center after graduating from The University of the South with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology in 2011. During her undergraduate studies, Kathy interned twice with the Child Study Center as a research assistant under Dr. Linda Mayes and Dr. Megan Smith. Kathy’s role will be critical to the long-term development and continued expansion of the Momba program. She will be a strategic partner to senior faculty on program planning and development, fundraising strategies and initiatives, public relations, marketing and communications.
"Isolation is a large contributor to maternal depression," said Dr. Smith, the project's principal investigator. "New mothers may be more prone to social isolation as they care for their infant and themselves. Our aim is to use a web-based network to increase the social connectedness of mothers and provide access to critical resources. To our knowledge, this would be the first interactive, web-based application to promote the mental health of low-income mothers and their infants."
Researchers will work with industry leaders to develop the Momba platform. The Executive Director of the National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN), Joanne Goldblum, will lend her expertise as a seasoned social worker and not-for-profit leader.
Researchers anticipate pilot study recruitment will begin in mid-2013.
The Momba project is funded by the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation and the Child Health and Development Institute of the Children's Fund of Connecticut.
Dr. Smith's efforts are supported by an institutional career award to Women’s Health Research at Yale from the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) program of the NIH Office of Research on Women's Health.
Retreived from: http://childstudycenter.yale.edu/news/momba.aspx