Though early stimulation interventions in Bangladesh have shown moderate improvements to child development, there are still some gaps in the pathway to delivery. One of these gaps is likely maternal depression as Bangladeshi mothers with subclinical depressive symptoms often do not seek treatment due to stigma. Due to this, depressed mothers often fail to provide sufficient stimulation and care for their children and in turn compromise benefits of existing early stimulation programs.
As mothers are usually the key providers of childcare, it is imperative to invest in maternal depression programs, which in turn can encourage higher adherence to early stimulation programs.
Rahman and colleagues tested an innovative model – The Thinking Healthy Programme – of community-based depression management using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in Pakistan and reported improvement in maternal depression 6 months postpartum.2 This innovation combines The Thinking Healthy Programme with an evidenced-based ECD program on psychological stimulation to achieve maximum benefits on reducing maternal depressive symptoms and also improving children’s overall development. In the team’s previous ECD work, it was found that minimum fortnightly contacts of stimulation workers are required to bring desired developmental benefit of children. This has been incorporated into this project by providing a combined intervention with fortnightly visits for up to one year by involving government health workers through home visits.