University of Illinois doctors create app to detect perinatal depression in new mothers of color

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An innovative app combines cutting edge technology, enhanced mental health outreach efforts and new opportunities to identify blood biomarkers for depression in an effort to help mothers of color from low-income communities identify, manage and treat perinatal depression at no cost.

Dr. Jenna Duffecy and Dr. Pauline Maki from the University of Illinois at Chicago's Center for Depression and Resilience developed the app.

"This focus on the specific needs of women of color also overcomes an inherit flaw of many tech-based health solutions, where many times patients of color are not part of the focus of research and design efforts for tech-based prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment. This leads to biases in the data and algorithms used to create those health apps," Dr. Maki said.

Non-Hispanic Black, Latina, non-Hispanic Asian, and Native American women are generally at a higher risk for mental health issues post-birth, like postpartum depression (PPD), and less likely to get the help they need. Depression is the most common complication of pregnancy, and differentially affects low-income women of color.

PPD affects one in nine women in the U.S. Left untreated, a woman can experience anxiety, suicidal thoughts, hopelessness and affect her child's development.

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For women of color, the lack of access to treatment, lack of screening and inefficient models of care are at the heart of this mental health crisis.

Sunnyside for Moms' platform is powered by a team of experts -- therapists, clinicians, pediatricians, maternal and child health professionals, midwives, nurses, doctors, researchers, technologists -- managing mom's mental health while also helping baby. It brings together cognitive-behavioral health experts and AI-driven technology to intervene where shortages in care are most dire and this crisis is most acute.

"Years of research have shown women of color have experienced a disproportionate burden of perinatal mood disorders. There's a need for women of color specifically to have digital solutions that are supportive, confidential and safe. Recognizing that need led to the creation of Sunnyside for Moms," said Dr. Jenna Duffecy, who, along with Dr. Pauline Maki, is a co-creator of the Sunnyside for Moms app.

Call 1-866-364-MOMS for more information.
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