Research starts to bear fruit

“If we can enhance perinatal mental health we can reduce future health inequalities,” says Professor Pauline Slade (pictured), who has led the CLAHRC NWC funded PEARS research into improving access to support for perinatal women through peer facilitation (a feasibility study with external pilot).

Speaking at the final stakeholder review meeting at Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group on 25th July, the Professor of Clinical Psychology outlined the progress that had been made and with the study now nearing its completion, hosted a debate on the next steps to capitalise on the successful research completed to date. Annette James, former Head of Children’s Health Improvement (Public Health Liverpool City Council), led the research jointly with Pauline. 

Stakeholders in the project included Local Authorities, NHS Trusts, Peer Facilitators and Children’s Centres amongst others. Representatives from these research partners mixed with peer facilitators, statisticians, researchers and public advisers to listen how the study had set out to reduce health inequalities and enhance perinatal mental health. In summary, the project looked at available health and community resources amongst socially deprived pregnant women and their families. 85% of the participants lived in the most deprived 1% of the UK.
An intervention, combining three elements of evidence based care and adapted to a perinatal setting was made up of the following components: a supportive contact with a non-professional peer; individual signposting to local resources based on women’s own needs and preferences (using an innovative online community resources map specifically designed for the study) and “if-then” planning (a simple way of helping people to put their intentions into action). 
Katie Bristow, Research Fellow and Manager of CLAHRC NWC’s Improving Mental Health Theme, said:  “Social support is important to people’s health and mental wellbeing, specifically for both the mother and unborn child in this context. Our intervention is about trying to increase women’s social support by identifying the support they need both antenatally and postnatally.”
Quantitative results suggest a trend for intervention group participants to have more contacts with community services during pregnancy and postnatally.
Amy Mahdi, Research Midwife at Liverpool Women’s Hospital was seconded to work on the project. She said:  “Having helped develop the online community resource map has made me feel really proud to be part of the team and grateful for the skills I’m taking back to my employer. There could be scope to develop the online resource further in partnership with partners and patients and that will be of great benefit to pregnant women in the community in helping provide access to services.”

Professor Slade added: “This work could be a precursor to a more advanced and larger study; we know the intervention we created is acceptable to the mothers and staff who participated. It may be that a larger, funded multi-site trial is an option to understand the potential impact on pregnant women’s mental health wellbeing on a much larger scale.

"There are options to move this feasibility study forward, including applications for funding and we are already meeting other CLAHRCs later this year to disseminate findings further and nationally.”
Consultant in Public Health at Liverpool City Council, Martin Smith, commented: “This has been a very informative insight into research which touches on some of our key delivery areas. It is a reminder of the importance of a systematic approach in service delivery.  As partner of CLAHRC NWC it is good to hear the findings and have the opportunity to take them away to digest and consider them in the context of planning for future service provision.”  

Presentations of the findings have already featured at numerous conferences and submission of journal articles has also commenced. 

A Brokering Innovation Through Evidence (BITE), which summarises the project, has already been produced and added to the national CLAHRC Partnership Programme website.

More articles     Posted on: 21 August 2017