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A complex postnatal mental health intervention: Australian translational formative evaluation

08 Jan 2016

SummaryReducing the burden of postnatal maternal mental health problems is an international public health priority. We developed What Were We Thinking (WWWT), a psychoeducation programme for primary postnatal health care that addresses known but neglected risks. We then demonstrated evidence of its effects in a before-and-after controlled study in preventing maternal postnatal mental health problems among women without a psychiatric history participating in the intervention compared to usual care (AOR 0.43; 95% CI 0.21, 0.89) when conducted by specialist nurses. Testing its effectiveness when implemented in routine primary care requires changes at practitioner, organizational and health system levels. This paper describes a programme of translational formative evaluation to inform the protocol for a cluster RCT. Following the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) Guidance for evaluating complex interventions, we conducted a translational formative evaluation using mixed methods. Collection and analysis of postnatal health service documents, semi-structured interviews, group discussions and an online survey were used to investigate service provision, consumers' needs and expectations, clinicians' attitudes and clinical practice, and the implications for health service delivery. Participants were expectant parents, health care providers, health service managers and government policy makers. Results documented current clinical practice, staff training needs, necessary service modifications to standardize advice to parents and include fathers, key priorities and drivers of government health policy, and informed a model of costs and expected health and social outcomes. Implementation of WWWT into routine postnatal care requires adjustments to clinical practice. Staff training, modifications to service opening hours and economic implications for the health system also need to be considered. The MRC Guidance for developing and evaluating complex interventions is a useful framework for conceptualizing and reporting translational formative evaluation, which is an essential step in the evidence trajectory. The results of the evaluation will inform the protocol for a cluster RCT of WWWT and associated health economic evaluation.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Health Promotion International