Does Treating Maternal Depression Improve Child Health Management?

The Case of Pediatric Asthma

As the most common chronic illness experienced by children in the United States, asthma is related to an array of health care expenditures.

In the current article, maternal depression treatment was examined in relation to asthma health care utilization for children using a pre-post design and instrumental variables approach. Medicaid claims data from Florida comprised the study data. Study participants were mother-child pairs of asthmatic children and mothers with and without a depression diagnosis.

Key Findings:

  • Emergency department treatment occurred more frequently than did inpatient stays for children in the sample. Just under half of the sample had a minimum of one outpatient visit during a 13-month period.
  • When propensity of primary care physicians (PCPs) to diagnose depression increased by 10 percent, there was a 4.1 percent increase in the probability that women receiving PCP care would seek depression treatment in the three months after they were initially diagnosed.
  • Asthma spending declined by $768 for each child whose mother received treatment for depression in the six-month period following diagnosis.

Health care efficiency could increase if pediatricians were trained to diagnose maternal depression in caregivers given the relationship between maternal depression treatment and reduction in asthma spending.