Effects of a community health worker delivered intervention on maternal depressive symptoms in rural Tanzania
Health Policy and Planning
Maternal depression affects one in four women in sub-Saharan Africa, yet evidence on effective and scalable interventions is limited. Our objective was to evaluate the effect of a community health worker (CHW) delivered home visit responsive stimulation, health and nutrition intervention, and conditional cash transfers (CCTs) for antenatal care and child growth monitoring attendance on maternal depressive symptoms. We conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial in 12 villages in rural
... ages in rural Ifakara, Tanzania (September 2017 to May 2019). Study villages were randomly assigned to one of three arms: (1) CHW, (2) CHW + CCT and (3) Control. Pregnant women and mothers with a child <12 months were enrolled. Maternal depressive symptoms were assessed using a Tanzanian-adapted version of the Hopkins Symptoms Checklist-25 (HSCL-25) after 18 months of follow-up. We used linear mixed-effects models to estimate intervention effects on HSCL-25 scores. Results showed that the CHW intervention significantly reduced HSCL-25 scores as compared with control [unadjusted mean difference (MD) −0.31, 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.47, −0.15]. The CHW + CCT intervention also appeared to lower HSCL-25 scores (MD −0.17, 95% CI −0.33, −0.01), but results were not statistically significant. Our findings showed that a low-intensity CHW-delivered home visit responsive stimulation, health and nutrition intervention, which did not explicitly aim to improve mental health, reduced maternal depressive symptoms, though the precise mechanisms of action remain unknown. CCTs for antenatal care and child growth monitoring appeared to provide limited to no additional benefit. Community-based integrated interventions that broadly consider maternal and child health, development and well-being have the potential to promote maternal mental health in rural Tanzania and similar settings.