Joanne Goldblum of New Haven is on a mission to get health care clinicians to recognize that poverty may be the underlying cause of their patients’ illnesses and that the best treatment might be as simple as a brown bag of food or a tube of toothpaste. Goldblum is CEO of the New Haven-based National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN), an organization dedicated to getting basic needs to people. She co-authored the Basic Needs-Informed Care Curriculum—with support from Yale School of Medicine faculty—designed to help clinicians, social workers and educators recognize the myriad ways a lack of resources can present itself. For example, a baby comes to a well child visit in dirty clothes. Clinicians might typically ask: Is the mother too depressed to care for the infant?
Low-income mothers in New Haven who can’t afford enough diapers to keep their babies clean and dry are more likely to report trouble coping with stress, depression or trauma, according to a study published today in the journal Pediatrics. The survey of 877 New Haven mothers found that nearly 30 percent said they didn’t have enough diapers to change their children as often as they would like, and the problem was more common among Hispanic women and caregivers over age 45, usually grandmothers. Women who reported diaper need were nearly twice as likely to experience mental health issues, although the nature of the link is unclear. The authors hypothesize that the link could be direct, or it could be part of more complex interaction between mental health and poverty. “It could be that moms who have more mental health difficulties have trouble obtaining diapers,” said the lead author, Megan Smith, an assistant professor of psychiatry, child study and public health at Yale University.