Policy Impact of Research Findings on the Association of Diaper Need and Mental Health



      Maternal mental illness constitutes one of most significant public health problems facing women of reproductive age and their children. Women who mother in poverty experience additional stressors, pointing to the need for innovative public health promotion efforts to reduce mental illness. Simple innovations, like making diapers more available and affordable, may represent an effective method of addressing this problem. This paper describes the research findings on diaper need reported by the New Haven Mental Health Outreach for Mothers Partnership and the process of translating these findings into broader policy and advocacy efforts.


      National-, state-, and local-level diaper policy activities that occurred from 2013 to 2016 were examined after a journal article that focused on diaper need and associated psychosocial variables was published in Pediatrics.


      Based on analysis of policy activities that occurred from 2013 to 2016 after Pediatrics published the diaper need findings, several diaper-related policy activities were identified: 1 at the city level, 11 at the state level, and 2 at the federal level. Five of the identified activities represented policy changes that were enacted or implemented.


      Community coalitions can effect gender-responsive policy change by conducting and disseminating research, engaging stakeholders, and mobilizing and leveraging their networks.
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      Lori R. Wallace, PhD, MPH, is a Postdoctoral Associate at the MOMS Partnership. Her research focuses on mental health outcomes among minority populations and on understanding how factors at different levels of influence interact to impact disorder risk.


      Alison M. Weir, PhD, JD, is Chief of Policy, Research, and Analysis, National Diaper Bank Network. She has been a lawyer in private practice, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force, an instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy, a speechwriter, and a Supreme Court Fellow.


      Megan V. Smith, DrPH, MPH, is Associate Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine; and Chronic Disease Epidemiology & Social & Behavioral Social Sciences, Yale School of Public Health. She is the Founder and Director of the MOMS Partnership.