Member of Parliament for York Centre Mark Adler joined Prof. Paul Young, U of T’s VP, Research and Innovation to pay tribute to U of T’s new Canada Research Chairs.

Canadian Government Renews Influential Professor’s Canada Research Chair in Perinatal Community Health

25 November 2013

(Member of Parliament for York Centre Mark Adler joined Prof. Paul Young, U of T’s VP, Research and Innovation to pay tribute to U of T’s new Canada Research Chairs)

Announced in November 2013, Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis, a professor with the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, officially began her second term as the Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Perinatal Community Health.  An international expert in improving maternal outcomes to positively impact child development, Dr. Dennis has made significant contributions since receiving the prestigious CRC in 2007.  Her innovative studies on the prevention and treatment of postpartum depression and her strong advocacy for the systematic approach to the identification of perinatal depression has informed provincial policy, and impacted international research activities and clinical practices.

“Every day millions of children are exposed to a depressed mother which may significantly impact their developmental trajectories. Research into the systematic management of this major childhood adversity is highly relevant and crucial to society,” says Dr. Dennis, who also holds the Shirley Brown Chair in Women’s Mental Health at Women’s College Research Institute.  “This Chair renewal is instrumental in supporting my program, especially since my research is now extending to an area which has received minimal attention:  postpartum depression among fathers and children’s exposure to dual depressed parents.”

Dr. Dennis’s research program is currently focused on five large studies:

1) The Impact of Maternal and Paternal Postpartum Depression: Assessing Concurrent Depression in The Family (IMPACT Study) – the first study to follow over 4,000 new parents and examine the impact of parental depression in the first two years of a child’s life.  The focus is on understanding the mechanisms by which single (maternal or paternal) versus ‘dual’ (maternal and paternal) postpartum depression affect infant outcomes.  Results will contribute to informing targeted interventions aimed at increasing parenting quality and preventing poor child development outcomes;

2) Telephone-Based Interpersonal Psychotherapy for the Treatment of Postpartum Depression – the first study to: (1) advance knowledge concerning the effectiveness of telephone-based interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) for the treatment of postpartum depression; (2) develop our understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of using trained nurses in the delivery of IPT; (3) examine the utility of providing IPT via telephone; and (4) provide an economic evaluation of an IPT intervention.

3) New Mothers in a New Country – the first study to specifically examine why immigrant women are at a higher risk to develop postpartum depression. With a focus on Chinese mothers, the study will:  (1) determine the prevalence of postpartum depression patterns of inception, and psychometric properties of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) among recent immigrant Chinese mothers; (2) examine the relationships between recent immigrant status, postpartum depression, acculturation, acculturative stress, social support, income, and the practice of traditional postpartum rituals; and (3)  determine patterns of postpartum depression help-seeking behaviours and barriers to health services among recent immigrant Chinese mothers.

4) Evaluating Collaborative Care for Postpartum Depression in Early Childhood Primary Care Settings  (EPDS Trial) – this will be the first studyto evaluate the effect of a collaborative care intervention on postpartum depression among mothers attending well-child visits in early childhood primary care settings.  Our trial is novel, important, and timely, as it will provide rigorous data to advance our understanding of how to deliver optimal mental health care for mothers in the postpartum period while also offering information about how improving depression treatment outcomes serve to prevent adverse outcomes in children. The contributions will be in five areas: (1) advancing the evidence-base concerning the effect of collaborative care for the management of PPD; (2) promoting a further understanding of PPD case identification in the early childhood primary care setting; (3) examining the effect of collaborative care on child developmental outcomes; (4) providing a detailed report of the nature and intensity of the PPD collaborative care activities and specific referral pathways; and (5) delivering an economic evaluation of the collaborative care intervention.

5) Women who are breastfeeding: Increasing Self-Efficacy to improve outcomes (WISE Trial) – the first study to evaluate the effects of a breastfeeding self-efficacy enhancing intervention provided by a professional and peer team on breastfeeding exclusivity among first-time mothers.

During this time, Dr. Dennis is expanding on her previous research while continuing to align her work with the University’s strategic research plan.

An international leader in her field, Dr. Dennis’s new research focus will continue to positively impact the decisions made by communities, health care providers, colleagues and policy-makers to keep parents, and ultimately children, healthy.

For more information on Dr. Dennis’s work, please go here.

For more information on Canada Research Chairs, please go here.