Results Summary

What was the research about?

Depression is a health problem that makes people feel sad, hopeless, or empty most days. Some women may have depression during pregnancy or after giving birth. Compared with other women, women with low incomes are more likely to feel depressed during or after pregnancy. Women with low incomes may also have a hard time getting mental health care.

In this study, the research team compared two ways to help pregnant women and new mothers with low incomes and symptoms of depression:

  • Engagement-focused care coordination, or EFCC. Trained clinic staff met with women once or twice at the clinic to talk about their depression symptoms, learn about treatments, and consider which treatments might work best for them. Staff then helped women find mental health care outside of the clinic.
  • Problem-solving education, or PSE. Trained clinic staff met with women six times at the clinic to help them learn to change patterns in their thinking to improve how they feel. If depression symptoms continued, staff connected these women with outside mental health services.

What were the results?

After one year, the programs didn’t differ in women’s improvement in overall depression symptoms. Women in both programs had improvement. Compared with women in the PSE program, women in the EFCC program reported larger declines in serious depression symptoms over one year and had larger declines in parenting stress.

The two programs didn’t differ in:

  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Knowledge, skill, and confidence about self-care
  • Coping skills
  • Ability to cope with life challenges
  • Use of mental health services
  • Children’s behavioral and emotional health

Who was in the study?

The study included 230 women who were pregnant or who had a child who was 18 months old or younger. Of the women, 60 percent were Black, 14 percent were White, 1 percent were Asian, and 24 percent were another race or more than one race. Also, 44 percent were Latina. The women were receiving care at Boston Medical Center. All had Medicaid insurance.

What did the research team do?

The research team assigned women to one of the two programs by chance. Women completed surveys every two months for one year.

Women who had depression after the birth of a child worked with the research team during the study.

What were the limits of the study?

Only about a third of women finished the programs. Results might have differed if more women had completed the programs. The study was conducted in a single medical center. Results may have differed if the study had been done at other locations.

Future research could compare the programs in other locations and look for ways to help more women complete the programs.

How can people use the results?

Health systems can use the results when considering ways to help manage depression symptoms for pregnant women and new moms with low incomes.

Final Research Report

View this project's final research report.

Peer-Review Summary

Peer review of PCORI-funded research helps make sure the report presents complete, balanced, and useful information about the research. It also assesses how the project addressed PCORI’s Methodology Standards. During peer review, experts read a draft report of the research and provide comments about the report. These experts may include a scientist focused on the research topic, a specialist in research methods, a patient or caregiver, and a healthcare professional. These reviewers cannot have conflicts of interest with the study.

The peer reviewers point out where the draft report may need revision. For example, they may suggest ways to improve descriptions of the conduct of the study or to clarify the connection between results and conclusions. Sometimes, awardees revise their draft reports twice or more to address all of the reviewers’ comments.

Peer reviewers commented and the researchers made changes or provided responses. Those comments and responses included the following:

  • The reviewers asked for more information about the bachelor’s-trained care advocates in this study, noting that the report was inconsistent in the terminology used to refer to these individuals and it would be helpful for readers to understand their role better to determine whether these care advocates could fit into a variety of clinical settings. To provide greater clarity, the researchers renamed the care advocates “bachelor-level providers” and added information to the report regarding these providers’ training in depression care. The researchers also explained that they did not monitor care sessions closely because this was an effectiveness study; therefore, they wanted to test the intervention in the most real-world environment as possible.
  • The reviewers were unclear on what the researchers considered an episode of depression since the Quick Inventory of Depression Symptomatology was measured at multiple intervals.
  • The reviewers disagreed with the report’s conclusions that the Engagement-Focused Care Coordination intervention was preferable to the Problem Solving Education condition since the finding was mostly due to depression rates in the comparator group rather than changes in depression in the intervention group. The researchers revised their conclusions to point out the lack of differences between the two groups but felt that without a true control group they could not consider whether the continued presence of depressive symptoms among participants in both treatment groups meant that the treatments did not work.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures

Project Information

Michael Silverstein, MD, MPH; Caroline J Kistin, MD, MSc
Boston Medical Center
Improving Outcomes for Low-Income Mothers with Depression: A Comparative Effectiveness Trial of Two Brief Interventions in the Patient-Centered Medical Home

Key Dates

December 2016
March 2023

Study Registration Information


Has Results
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Populations Populations PCORI is interested in research that seeks to better understand how different clinical and health system options work for different people. These populations are frequently studied in our portfolio or identified as being of interest by our stakeholders. View Glossary
Intervention Strategy Intervention Strategies PCORI funds comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that compare two or more options or approaches to health care, or that compare different ways of delivering or receiving care. View Glossary
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Last updated: April 12, 2024