Community health workers can improve child growth of antenatally-depressed, South African mothers : a cluster randomized controlled trial
CITATION: Tomlinson, M., et al. 2015. Community health workers can improve child growth of antenatally-depressed, South African mothers : a cluster randomized controlled trial. BMC Psychiatry, 15:225, doi:10.1186/s12888-015-0606-7.
The original publication is available at https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com
Background: Maternal antenatal depression has long-term consequences for children’s health. We examined if home visits by community health workers (CHW) can improve growth outcomes for children of mothers who are antenatally depressed. Methods: A cluster randomized controlled trial of all pregnant, neighbourhood women in Cape Town, South Africa. Almost all pregnant women (98 %, N = 1238) were recruited and assessed during pregnancy, two weeks post-birth (92 %) and 6 months post-birth (88 %). Pregnant women were randomized to either: 1) Standard Care (SC), which provided routine antenatal care; or 2) an intervention, The Philani Intervention Program (PIP), which included SC and home visits by CHW trained as generalists (M = 11 visits). Child standardized weight, length, and weight by length over 6 months based on maternal antenatal depression and intervention condition. Results: Depressed mood was similar across the PIP and SC conditions both antenatally (16.5 % rate) and at 6 months (16.7 %). The infants of depressed pregnant women in the PIP group were similar in height (height-forage Z scores) to the children of non-depressed mothers in both the PIP and the SC conditions, but significantly taller at 6 months of age than the infants of pregnant depressed mothers in the SC condition. The intervention did not moderate children’s growth. Depressed SC mothers tended to have infants less than two standard deviations in height on the World Health Organization’s norms at two weeks post-birth compared to infants of depressed PIP mothers and non-depressed mothers in both conditions. Conclusions: A generalist, CHW-delivered home visiting program improved infant growth, even when mothers’ depression was not reduced. Focusing on maternal caretaking of infants, even when mothers are depressed, is critical in future interventions.