Embarking on a Maternal Behavioral Health Journey

with Ellie Meyers and Reggi Rideout

Journey mapping is a popular tool that utilizes customers’ personas to follow their experiences from initial contact and awareness throughout the course of their relationship with a product, service, or brand. In such a process, companies hope to understand how the customer is interacting with the product at various touch points to uncover opportunities for improvement and influence.  The output is a research-based visualization or diagram that succinctly communicates what is happening between the consumer and product at every interaction.  While journey mapping typically lends insight into a consumer experience with a product, Simply Strategy utilizes this tool to understand the health journeys of people through live events. Most recently, we've accomplished this objective by understanding the problems associated with gaps in care in maternal behavioral health in the State of Missouri. 

Overhead of an Asian woman lying next to her baby
  Maternal behavioral health interfaces with many systems and affects a diverse population, making it a complicated issue to dissect.  However; we do know that one in seven mothers will experience a behavioral health need which has prompted more serious discussion on the topic.  Clinical and community stakeholders across the state are aware of the many barriers to treatment, from stigma and insurance coverage to provider availability and specialization.

While we were enthusiastic about this assignment to study the issue and develop a state-wide strategic plan, it is a daunting task; the stakeholders and touchpoints are decentralized and regional problems vary.  Other states have some great programs, but nothing stands out in particular as a program or policy that could be duplicated here and would have the same outcome due to state size, geography, demographics, and existing policies.

We know that moms interact with numerous systems before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and postpartum and that each of those systems needs to be addressed if we are to tackle barriers to care that would realistically affect maternal behavioral health and positively impact Missouri families.

Applying journey mapping to a mother’s interaction with the current health system became the clear planning tool to utilize in order to narrow and define the issues facing moms during and after pregnancy.  Experts were invited to participate in the process. Diverse professionals from state departments to clinical and community health professionals could use the journey as common language to visualize their decentralized role in the overall process.

To keep our participants focused on the specific objectives during strategic planning sessions, three maternal personas were developed that would represent moms’ distinct experiences in Missouri. Within these personas we demonstrated the largest possible range of experiences that women could have during their pregnancy. As we suspected, creating a journey for our three personas illuminated specific issues that are pertinent to most mothers. More importantly, we were able to pinpoint problems to solve with the greatest impact. 

Below is the map born from a facilitated data-collection exercise with more than 100 public health professionals and clinical providers and more than 20 individual depth interviews.

A journey map, visualizing a mother's journey through pregnancy as it relates to her behavioral health.
I n part 2, we will follow up on the planning process, and share how the map was enhanced through collaboration, what strategies teams collaborated on to meet the planning objectives, and where the State of Missouri is headed on its Maternal Behavioral Health journey.
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