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Leading the charge toward a world without depression: perinatal depression can be prevented


This manuscript is based on a keynote address presented at the 2020 Marcé Society’s Conference celebrating the Society’s 40th anniversary. The address described a 50-year perspective on prevention research, current evidence that perinatal depression can be prevented, and how digital tools could be used to disseminate perinatal depression prevention interventions throughout the world. We utilized the Mothers and Babies Course as a case study to illustrate these goals. The article reviews the gradual progress of depression prevention research, from the time when the state of the science was such that it was believed that the onset of major depressive episodes could not be prevented until the present day. In addition, the article recounts the three consensus reports on prevention of mental disorders published by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, culminating in the 2019 report, which calls on the field to implement known interventions for the prevention of depression and other mental disorders, and to scale up their administration to reduce the prevalence of these disorders in the general population. The paper presents the 2019 recommendations of the US Preventive Services Task Force, which instructs the health system to provide routine referrals to perinatal depression prevention interventions (e.g., the Mothers and Babies Course) to perinatal persons at risk for depression. We now have the knowledge to prevent approximately half of episodes of perinatal depression. It is time to implement this knowledge and begin to do research on how to prevent the remaining half.

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The studies reviewed here have received funding from several sources, which we acknowledge gratefully: The National Institutes of Mental Health, the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, Google, Inc., the University of California Office of the President, Palo Alto University, Department of Health and Human Services/Health Resources and Services Administration/Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Catholic Relief Services.

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Correspondence to Ricardo F. Muñoz.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on 40th Anniversary of the International Marcé Society for Perinatal Mental Health: Innovations in Research Policy and Clinical Care Guest Editor: Lisa Segre

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Muñoz, R.F., Le, HN., Barrera, A.Z. et al. Leading the charge toward a world without depression: perinatal depression can be prevented. Arch Womens Ment Health 24, 807–815 (2021).

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  • Prevention
  • Depression
  • Perinatal
  • Spanish
  • Digital interventions