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Improving Mental Health Screening for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pregnant Women and New Mums

Baby OneApunipima Cape York Health Council is taking part in a unique study in a bid to improve the mental health of expectant and new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums living in remote communities.

Entitled ‘Improving mental health screening for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pregnant women and mothers of young children’, the study will examine how the Kimberley Mum’s Mood Scale (KMMS) (a culturally appropriate mental health screening tool for pregnant and new mums developed in the Kimberley in remote Western Australia in 2012 and validated in the Kimberley in 2016) works in other remote regions.

Apunipima Cape York Health Council, Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services Inc., Western Australia Country Health Service and the Rural Clinical School of Western Australia, The University of Western Australia will work together to re-evaluate the KMMS in a larger Kimberley population during real world implementation, test for applicability in other remote regions (e.g. Pilbara, Far North Queensland) and develop locally appropriate versions if necessary.

‘It’s estimated that around one quarter of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women living in remote communities experience high levels of anxiety and depression which can impact both mother and child during pregnancy and in the early years of the child’s life,’ explained Professor and Lead Investigator David Atkinson from the Rural Clinical School of Western Australia.

‘Perinatal mental health is a big issue for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, current approaches to screening are not working well and this funding is to support real world testing of the effectiveness of the KMMS in Western Australia and to adapt this screening approach to Cape York.’

Principal Research Fellow Professor and Lead Investigator Julia Marley from the Rural Clinical School of Western Australia and the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services Inc. said the KMMS has been found to be a reliable and valuable tool for identifying Kimberley Aboriginal perinatal women at risk of anxiety and depressive disorders.  

‘The development of locally appropriate mental health diagnostic tools that enable a safe space for people to talk is critical for social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations living in remote areas. Improving mental health screening for Aboriginal women perinatally is an important step in addressing the burden of mental health issues amongst women having children and improving the well-being of the next generation of Aboriginal children.’

‘KMMS is a shining example of culturally appropriate health care. Apunipima will use it in Cape York and evaluate whether it works for our population or whether it needs to be adapted to local culture,’ said Apunipima’s Public Health Medical Officer and Lead Investigator Dr Mark Wenitong.

The study will run from 2017 – 2020.

Last modified onFriday, 10 February 2017 04:07