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The National Perinatal Depression Initiative: An evaluation of access to general practitioners, psychologists and psychiatrists through the Medicare Benefits Schedule
journal contributionposted on 01.03.2016, 00:00 authored by G M Chambers, S Randall, V P Hoang, E A Sullivan, N Highet, M Croft, Cathy Mihalopoulos, V A Morgan, N Reilly, M P Austin
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the impact of the National Perinatal Depression Initiative on access to Medicare services for women at risk of perinatal mental illness. METHOD: Retrospective cohort study using difference-in-difference analytical methods to quantify the impact of the National Perinatal Depression Initiative policies on Medicare Benefits Schedule mental health usage by Australian women giving birth between 2006 and 2010. A random sample of women of reproductive age enrolled in Medicare who had not given birth where used as controls. The main outcome measures were the proportions of women giving birth each month who accessed a Medicare Benefits Schedule mental health items during the perinatal period (pregnancy through to the end of the first postnatal year) before and after the introduction of the National Perinatal Depression Initiative. RESULTS: The proportion of women giving birth who accessed at least one mental health item during the perinatal period increased from 88 to 141 per 1000 between 2007 and 2010. The difference-in-difference analysis showed that while there was an overall increase in Medicare Benefits Schedule mental health item access as a result of the National Perinatal Depression Initiative, this did not reach statistical significance. However, the National Perinatal Depression Initiative was found to significantly increase access in subpopulations of women, particularly those aged under 25 and over 34 years living in major cities. CONCLUSION: In the 2 years following its introduction, the National Perinatal Depression Initiative was found to have increased access to Medicare funded mental health services in particular groups of women. However, an overall increase across all groups did not reach statistical significance. Further studies are needed to assess the impact of the National Perinatal Depression Initiative on women during childbearing years, including access to tertiary care, the cost-effectiveness of the initiative, and mental health outcomes. It is recommended that new mental health policy initiatives incorporate a planned strategic approach to evaluation, which includes sufficient follow-up to assess the impact of public health strategies.