Cindy-Lee Dennis, PhD

 

Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis’s
Mothering Transitions Research Program

Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis has a simple maxim: “Healthy babies start with healthy parents.” This belief has led Dr. Dennis to focus her research career on rigorously evaluating interventions that can directly improve the health of mothers and fathers, with the overall goal of improving child health and well-being. She has over 20 years of experience leading large cohort studies and clinical trials — including intervention care models that leverage technology to improve clinical effectiveness and accessibility —  recruiting participants from all across Canada. She also developed the Breastfeeding Self-Efficacy Scale, the most widely used breastfeeding measure internationally that has been translated into over 20 different languages to identify women early who are at-risk of poor breastfeeding outcomes. In total, Dr. Dennis has led eight Cochrane systematic reviews and published over 200 peer-reviewed research papers. She has received numerous awards and honors, including a Fellowship in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and the Marcé Medal from the International Marcé Society for Perinatal Mental Health.

Research Focus 1: Improving Breastfeeding Outcomes

Mother breastfeeding babyAlthough the value of providing infants with human milk has long been understood, a torrent of studies published in the past 30 years have provided undeniable evidence that breastfeeding reduces morbidity and mortality during the first year of life, not only in developing countries but in North America and Europe as well. Despite the significant research on the barriers to breastfeeding and the many efforts to promote and support it, almost every country in the world fails to meet the World Health Organization’s recommendations for exclusive breastfeeding. Dr. Dennis’ research has addressed this long-standing clinical problem in several ways that include breastfeeding self-efficacy and peer support. Read more…

Research Focus 2: Detecting, Preventing, and Treating Perinatal Mental Illness

Depressed womanMental illness is most common forms of maternal morbidity with approximately 1 in 4 women from diverse cultures experiencing depression or anxiety in the perinatal period. Studies have clearly documented the negative health consequences of perinatal mental illness for women and their families. Infants and children are particularly vulnerable due to impaired maternal-infant interactions and negative perceptions of infant behaviour. Dr. Dennis’ research has addressed this clinical problem in a number of ways that include the evaluation of innovative preventative and treatment interventions. Read more…

Research Focus 3: Examining the Health of Immigrant Mothers and Infants

Immigrant mother and babyAccording to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, approximately 6 million people, or 20% of the Canadian population, were foreign-born, increasing to 43.7% in Toronto. Immigration patterns also indicate that 48.7% of all recent immigrants settled in Toronto, rendering it the fastest-growing multicultural city in Canada. Given that 64.2% of the recently immigrated female population is between 15 to 44 years of age, a significant number of immigrant women are in their childbearing years and will require perinatal health care. Dr. Dennis’ research is examining the health of immigrant mothers and infants. Read more…

Research Focus 4: Developing Interventions that Include Fathers

Small boy kissing father's cheekWhile fathers’ roles vary widely between and within different social and cultural groups, today most fathers have an active role in childcare. As such, fathers can significantly influence child health and wellbeing. A recent meta-analysis suggests that approximately 10.4% of fathers will experience depression in the first year postpartum. Among fathers whose partners experience postpartum depression, the incidence of paternal postpartum depression rises to 25-50%. Unfortunately, much of the perinatal research has excluded fathers. Dr. Dennis’ research is developing interventions that include fathers. Read more…