Honoring Native Americans and Exposing Health Disparities

November 21, 2022

By Kandyce Hylick, MPH

“November is Native American Heritage Month and 2020 Mom wants to address the maternal mental health disparities and honor the history and culture of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN).

Though Native Americans faced historical trauma and now face extremely high rates of maternal mortality and depression little effort has been made to recognize and prioritize this first population’s maternal mental health disparities and needs.

Stats About Native MMH

Did you know that around 30 percent of American Indian and Alaskan Native mothers face postpartum depression?1 Research suggests this is due to several factors, including but not limited to stressful life events and housing instability.2 A recent CDC report highlighted that American Indians and Alaska Natives are disproportionally impacted by pregnancy-related deaths, with mental health conditions (including suicide and overdose) being one of the most common causes.3

Opportunities to Test Screening Validity

There has been recent discussion as to whether common maternal depression screening tools are valid or sensitive to the cultural nuances of non-White women.4 Screening tools such as the EPDS and PHQ were created and informed by a majority of White research participants.4 Until this is addressed by the field, it has been recommended that a lower screening score cut-off be used for minority groups, including Indigenous women.5

2020 Mom is working to aggressively close gaps in maternal mental health care and support work being done to find equitable solutions. This month we honor our native sisters and all those working to support them.”

  1. Heck JL. Postpartum Depression in American Indian/Alaska Native Women: A Scoping Review. MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2021;46(1):6-13. doi:10.1097/NMC.0000000000000671
  2. Ness MN, Rosenberg KD, Abrahamson-Richards T, Sandoval AP, Weiser TM, Warren-Mears V. Stressful Life Events and Self-Reported Postpartum Depressive Symptoms 13-24 Months After Live Birth Among Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native Mothers in Oregon: Results from a Population-Based Survey. Am Indian Alsk Native Ment Health Res Online. 2017;24(2):76-98.
  3. CDC Depression among Women, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/depression/index.htm. Accessed April 25, 2019.
  4. Inquirer NF WHYY, Aneri Pattani, The Philadelphia. Black Mothers Get Less Treatment For Postpartum Depression Than Other Moms. Kaiser Health News. Published December 6, 2019. Accessed July 26, 2021. https://khn.org/news/black-mothers-get-less-treatment-for-postpartum-depression-than-other-moms/
  5. Tandon SD, Cluxton-Keller F, Leis J, Le H-N, Perry DF. A comparison of three screening tools to identify perinatal depression among low-income African American women. J Affect Disord. 2012;136(1-2):155-162. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2011.07.014

Read the article here