Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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Megan Smith ’00MPH: wiped out

Some researchers peer inside our cells. Some gaze at the galaxies. Megan Smith ’00MPH, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, examines the lives of low-income mothers: their wallets, their psyches, their babies’ diapers.

“A parent’s mental health affects a child’s development,” Smith says. “High levels of stress and depression in a parent can be associated with low achievement in school and mental health problems that can follow a child for a lifetime.”

That’s grim, given the results of Smith’s latest study: three out of ten poor mothers say they can’t afford enough clean diapers, she reports in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics. And that’s stressful. Previous research by the New Haven Mental health Outreach for MotherS (MOMS) Partnership, which Smith directs, shows that “diaper need was an even stronger predictor of mental health need than food insecurity,” a YaleNews release says.

While cautioning that the cause and effect are not clear—“it could be that moms who have more mental health difficulties have trouble obtaining diapers," Smith tells the Hartford Courant—she adds that the findings point to a possible solution: “We have identified a unique and potentially modifiable mental health risk factor for mothers.”

Not coincidentally, Smith’s coauthors include Joanne Goldblum and Alison Weir of the New Haven-based National Diaper Bank Network, on whose board of directors Smith serves.

Filed under Megan Smith, psychiatry, diapers
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