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Advancing Perinatal Psychiatry Access in Pennsylvania through Advocacy and Collaboration

Kristin Roadman headshot

January 3, 2024

Kristin Roadman graduated with a Master of Public Health (MPH) from Dornsife in December 2023 after completing the Online MPH in Urban Health with a minor in Maternal and Child Health (MCH).

Kristin’s interest in MCH stems from a desire to improve health outcomes for women and increase access to reproductive services to achieve greater health equity. Kristin has worked for the federal government in agencies focused on emergency management, environment, and immigration, which broadened her understanding of how prevalent public health issues are in our society.

Currently, she works for the University of Illinois Chicago where she manages programs designed to support faculty and students, including the Community Health Advocacy program, which uses a multidisciplinary approach to address health disparities in urban areas through health innovation.

Dornsife's Maternal and Child Health program "is a great resource for learning about virtual events like journal club and MCH career panels. I was able to feel engaged and find opportunities for meaningful APE and ILE experiences despite living in California." - Kristin Roadman

While at Dornsife, Kristin completed both her Applied Practical Experience (APE) and Integrated Learning Experience (ILE) in maternal and child health. Her APE, with the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice, focused on advocacy efforts for the reauthorization of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program.

Kristin then completed her ILE with the Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) in Philadelphia. While working with MCC, Kristin conducted research on perinatal mental health conditions, focusing on the challenges and recommendations associated with treating these conditions and the impact to health equity.

The MCH Program spoke with Kristen to learn more about her ILE project.

What did you do for your ILE? What were the goals of the project?

I worked with MCC and Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children to support advocacy efforts to start a Perinatal Psychiatry Access Program in Pennsylvania.

The goal of the project was to develop a policy brief summarizing research on the design, implementation, sustainability, and feasibility of a perinatal psychiatry access pilot program and to provide a pathway forward for implementing the program in Pennsylvania. This evidence-based model, which was initially designed and launched in Massachusetts in 2014, has been proven to address gaps in mental health support and improve access to care in other states by building primary provider care capacity and knowledge.

It was important for me to understand how and why this has been an effective tool in other states, particularly in those with demographics and political landscapes like Pennsylvania. As part of my efforts, I reached out to program managers and subject matter experts and conducted interviews with 12 different states to understand the varying program designs, challenges they had encountered during implementation, and recommendations for program sustainability.

Did you produce any products as a result of your ILE project?

I helped to produce a brief for MCC to support advocacy efforts and provide a “roadmap” for Pennsylvania’s Department of Health and Human Services to establish a Perinatal Psychiatry Access Program. In the interviews I conducted with state program managers and subject matter experts, several themes emerged for recommendations and challenges for implementing a new Access Program, which we incorporated into the brief.

What did you learn from your practical experiences?

I learned so much from my APE and ILE experiences. Specifically, I gained a greater understanding of how perinatal psychiatry access programs can address provider shortages and support mental health equity through training and education, perinatal psychiatric consultation, and resources and referrals within the community.

My APE work with the Campaign for Trauma Informed Policy and Practice helped me understand why Home Visiting programs are an effective tool to improve maternal and newborn health. I was able to make the connection and advocate for including non-prescribers such as home visitors and doulas in education and training outreach efforts around perinatal mental health condition screening and treatment options.

Overall, I saw firsthand how important advocacy is to support the implementation of practices, interventions, and policies that can directly impact health equity.

How did your training at Dornsife prepare you for your ILE and APE?

I felt well prepared for my ILE experience because of my training at Dornsife, which has provided me with opportunities to think critically about prevalent MCH issues to better understand why these issues occur, who is disproportionately impacted, and how evidence-based practices, interventions, and policies can help to address these issues.

For this experience, I had gained a strong awareness through classwork of barriers that exist for treating mental health conditions during the perinatal period. Despite how widespread these conditions are, they remain largely untreated, which can lead to an increased risk of pregnancy-related death for perinatal women. Treatment rates for these conditions are also inequitable across racial and ethnic groups, highlighting the need for a health equity focus to increase access to care.

Having this knowledge allowed me to hit the ground running for my project work. I felt equipped to research and conduct interviews with program leaders who are experts in this field, all of which highlighted how perinatal psychiatry access programs can help to achieve perinatal mental health equity in states with diverse populations and urban/rural demographics like Pennsylvania. I applied the knowledge gained to my work at Dornsife, which has further supported my interest and research in this topic.

How did this MCH experience impact your future career goals?

This experience further highlighted for me how important advocacy and policy are for improving health outcomes, which can lead to stronger communities. I hope to incorporate policy and advocacy into future career goals where I can use my existing programmatic experience and continue to make a positive impact and improve maternal and child health outcomes that will benefit our society.

What advice would you give to current MCH students?

I would recommend that students take the time to connect with professors and get involved with Drexel’s Maternal and Child Health Program to learn about available opportunities and events.

The Urban Health MPH program is remote, and it can feel overwhelming to get involved or find an APE or ILE experience when you’re not near campus. However, the MCH program is a great resource for learning about virtual events like journal club and MCH career panels. I was able to feel engaged and find opportunities for meaningful APE and ILE experiences despite living in California.

Learn more about Dornsife's MCH program and upcoming MCH events.

Dornsife's Maternal and Child Health Program is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit