Placement: Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Mentor: Catherine Monk, Ph.D., Diana Vagelos Professor of Women’s Mental Health, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology; Professor of Medical Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Co-mentor: Nancy Byatt, D.O., M.S., M.B.A., Professor of Psychiatry, Ob/Gyn, and Population and Quantitative Health Sciences, UMass Chan Medical School
Project: Exploring Racial Inequalities in Maternal Mental Health Outcomes
Claire Wilson, MRCPsych, Ph.D., is a 2023–24 U.K. Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice. She is an NIHR academic clinical lecturer and psychiatry specialist registrar in the Section of Women’s Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience, King’s College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Wilson’s clinical practice is in a perinatal service supporting women in the community of South East London. Her clinical work and research focus on the intergenerational transmission of risk for mental health and disease and opportunities for intervention to prevent adverse developmental trajectories. She has a particular interest in the preconception and perinatal periods and uses a range of methodologies to translate her work from the level of the bench or the database, to the bedside, policymakers, and the public. Wilson is also a keen educator and the academic secretary for the Women and Mental Health Special Interest Group of the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists. She earned her Ph.D. in epidemiological psychiatry at King’s College London and her medical degree from the University of Glasgow.
Project Overview: Perinatal mental illness affects around 1 in 5 birthing people globally and is associated with adverse outcomes for those affected and their families. Such adverse outcomes are not inevitable and there is now good evidence for a range of both preventive and treatment interventions. There are well-documented inequalities in mental health outcomes across a range of social determinants, including race; such inequalities are also apparent during the perinatal period. There are also racial disparities in mental health care delivery during the perinatal period.
Racial inequalities in perinatal mental health are now being recognized as key policy priorities in both the United States and the United Kingdom. In the recent White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, a commitment was made to expand the Safety Program in Perinatal Care to address these inequalities. Likewise, in England, the Department of Health and Social Care’s Maternity Disparities Taskforce has been established to focus on the health of ethnic minority women in response to the findings of the Women’s Health Strategy published in 2022.
Using routinely collected epidemiological data, this project will investigate the drivers of these racial inequalities in access to perinatal mental health services and associated maternal and child outcomes. It also will utilize qualitative approaches to explore current initiatives to reduce inequalities. Findings have the potential to inform the development of culturally sensitive interventions to promote equity in this area for underserved populations.