Comparing the Effectiveness of Clinicians and Paraprofessionals to Reduce Disparities in Perinatal Depression via the Mothers and Babies Course: Protocol for a Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial




Jessica K. Jensen, Jody D. Ciolino, Alicia Diebold, Melissa Segovia, Aria Degillio, Jesus Solano-Martinez, and S. Darius Tandon

Brief Type

Journal Publication


  • Healthy Families America (HFA)
  • Other Models
  • Parents as Teachers (PAT)


BACKGROUND: Postpartum depression is highly prevalent in low-income women and has significant health and mental health effects on mother and child. Home visiting (HV) programs provide services to large numbers of perinatal women in the United States and are a logical setting for delivering mental health services. Although there are interventions that reduce the risk of developing postpartum depression among low-income women, none have used nonhealth or nonmental health professionals as interventionists. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to outline the protocol of a cluster randomized trial funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute that evaluates whether the Mothers and Babies (MB) group intervention, when led by paraprofessional home visitors, is more efficacious than usual care. It will also examine if MB, when led by home visitors, is not inferior to MB delivered by mental health professionals (MHPs). MB has previously demonstrated efficacy when delivered by MHPs, and pilot work indicated promising results using home visitors to deliver the intervention. METHODS: A cluster randomized trial is being conducted with 38 HV programs. Sixteen HV programs will deliver MB using MHPs, 16 will deliver MB using paraprofessional home visitors, and 6 will deliver usual HV services. The study employs a modified covariate-constrained randomization design at the site level. We anticipate recruiting 933 women aged ≥16 years enrolled in HV programs, who are 33 or more weeks’ gestation and speak either English or Spanish. Women in the 2 intervention arms will receive the 6-session MB group intervention. Baseline, postintervention, 12-week postpartum, and 24-week postpartum assessments will be conducted to assess client outcomes. The primary outcome will be the change in Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology Self-Report 16 scores from baseline to 24-week follow-up. Secondary outcomes associated with core MB content will also be examined. Semistructured interviews will be conducted with home visitors and MHPs who are group facilitators and 90 study participants to gain data on intervention successes and challenges. Analyses will proceed at the participant level. Primary analyses for depressive symptoms score at 24 weeks postpartum will involve a linear mixed model, controlling for baseline symptoms and other covariates, and random effects to account for clustering. RESULTS: We have recruited 838 women through the end of August 2018. Recruitment will be completed at the end of September 2018. CONCLUSIONS: There is considerable potential to disseminate MB to HV programs throughout the United States. Should our results demonstrate home visitor efficacy when compared with usual care and/ noninferiority between home visitors and MHPs in improving mental health outcomes, no additional financial resources would be required for the existing HV staff to implement MB. Should this study determine that home visitors are less effective than MHPs, we will generate more wide-scale evidence on MB effectiveness when led by MHPs. (author abstract)

Data Collection Methods

  • Interviews
  • Program administrative record reviews
  • Standardized assessment tools
  • Surveys or questionnaires



For More Information

Jensen, J. K., Ciolino, J. D., Diebold, A., Segovia, M., Degillio, A., Solano-Martinez, J., & Tandon, S. D. (2018). Comparing the effectiveness of clinicians and paraprofessionals to reduce disparities in perinatal depression via the Mothers and Babies Course: Protocol for a cluster-randomized controlled trial. JMIR Research Protocols7(11). Retrieved from: https://www.researchprotocols.org/2018/11/e11624/#
Author Contact Information:
Jessica K. Jensen


  • Home Visiting Workforce Characteristics and Workforce Development
  • Participant, Family, and Program Outcomes
  • Program Enhancements, Innovations, and Promising Approaches