Every year, hundreds of women in the Charlottesville area experience postpartum depression, according to Adrienne Griffin, founder of Postpartum Support Virginia.

Her organization, which organizes support groups and connects women who are anxious or depressed after giving birth with resources, runs several locations across the state. A recent grant from the integrated Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia — or iTHRIV — will help the group educate Charlottesville-area health professionals, add new area resources and ensure all childbearing women are educated about, screened for and receive treatment for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders from conception through one year after giving birth.

"Our goal is that we talk about this issue with the same depth that we talk about every other aspect of pregnancy and parenting," Griffin said.

The grant, one of four awarded to community organizations, is the first round of funding provided by iTHRIV, which is a partnership between the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Carilion Clinic and Inova Health System. Their work aims to turn basic research findings in biology and medicine into hands-on applications in Virginia, and is supported by a five-year, $23 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

"The postpartum depression grant is a perfect first partnership for iTHRIV because we have experience in perinatal and mental health care locally, and this is an issue that our community asked us to look into," said Karen C. Johnston, UVa’s associate vice president for clinical and translational research. 

The other projects address autism spectrum disorder, led by K.J. Holbrook from the Mount Rogers Community Services Board and Angela Scarpa, a professor of psychology at Virginia Tech; improved access to colorectal cancer screening, led by Michelle Brauns from the Community Health Center of the New River Valley and Jamie Zoellner from UVa’s Department of Public Health Sciences; and the benefits of walking in cities, led by Jeremy Hoffman from the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, Jenny Roe from the director of UVa’s Center for Design and Health, Chris Neale from UVa’s Frank D. Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and Julia Gohlke, an associate professor of population health sciences at Virginia Tech.

The project depends on getting community members and organizations involved in each part of the process of turning research into an application that can actually help Virginians. By the time the grant ends, researchers said they hope to have community partnerships across the state.

"This is just the beginning; we hope to engage more and more people," Johnston said.

The next round of available funding for new projects will be announced this fall.


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