An innovative study that developed a comprehensive, accessible and affordable maternal depression screening strategy has won the 2022 APEC Healthy Women, Healthy Economies Research Prize.
Dr Zheng Ruimin, Director of Women's Health Care Department at China’s National Center for Women and Children's Health wins this year’s award with her work on postnatal depression. The announcement was made during the APEC Women and the Economy Forum on Wednesday in Bangkok.
Dr Zheng’s study aims to tackle maternal depression at the earliest stage of pregnancy and recommends routine depression screenings across the entire birth process to reduce the burden of disease and economic loss on women.
“After identifying the absence of health strategies that address the high incidence of maternal depression worldwide, I worked to develop a cost-effective screening strategy that economies could incorporate into their maternal health practices,” said Dr Zheng.
"My research demonstrates that when providers adopt evidence-based interventions, the incidence of maternal depression significantly decreases, improving women’s socioeconomic status and health outcomes during childbirth,” she added.
According to the APEC Women and the Economy Dashboard, the pandemic has further exacerbated socioeconomic disparity, with women sustaining severe losses from the economic fallout and digital disruptions brought about by the pandemic.
“There are many important lessons the pandemic has taught us, but most apparent is that the health and well-being of our people, especially the most vulnerable, are key to a healthy economy,” said Renee Graham, Chair of the APEC Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy.
“In order to chart a path forward towards an inclusive, sustainable and resilient economy, we must ensure that women and girls have access to quality health education and services—only by incorporating evidence-based solutions can we fully empower women to join, rise and thrive in the workforce,” she added.
Dr Bach Tran of Viet Nam and Dr Jaime Galvez Tan of the Philippines were the runners up for this year’s Healthy Women, Healthy Economies Research Prize. The winning entry receives USD 20,000 and the two runners-up receive USD 5,000 each.
Dr Tran studies the direct and indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on pregnant women’s quality of life, emphasizing the urgent need for policymakers to incorporate evidence-based interventions such as expanded telehealth services and counselling, enhanced familial and social support, and community-based health education strategies to improve maternal health outcomes and care satisfaction.
Dr Galvez Tan studies the causes and effects of adolescent pregnancy and recommends evidence-based solutions for early childhood intervention, including school-based comprehensive sexuality education to improve women's health, well-being and empowerment.
“Across the APEC region, women’s ability to unlock their full economic potential is predicated on access to inclusive health services, which requires a whole-of-society approach” said Hong Chow, Executive Vice President and Head of China and International at Merck Healthcare.
“Through APEC Healthy Women, Healthy Economies, we are advancing stakeholder collaboration to highlight and address the most critical needs of women and girls to fully realize their potential and contribute to the economy,” she concluded
The Healthy Women Healthy Economy award was launched in 2019 in partnership with Merck, a global science and technology company, to spotlight and spur the gathering of much-needed data and evidence around women’s health so women can join, rise, and thrive in the workforce. The research winners and runners-up underscore the importance of quality health interventions as the foundation of inclusive recovery strategies.
For more information on the work of the finalists and on applying for the 2023 prize, please visit the APEC Healthy Women Healthy Economies website.
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