SmartParent: improving knowledge and confidence for new parents

November 15, 2021

For new parents, life with an infant is full of highs and lows: the first smile, the first fever, the first step, and the many sleepless nights.  To help with the transition to parenthood, UBC researchers have launched SmartParent, Canada’s first parenting education program delivered by text messaging.  Parents receive 3 messages every week, each with a link to online information.  Messages are tailored to the infant’s age and stage of development to guide parents through each week of their baby’s first year.  The information includes everything from growth and developmental milestones, infant safety, feeding and sleeping, to follow-up and screening of procedures and vaccinations.  Importantly, SmartParent also provides information for parents about mental health and self-care.  They will receive resources on how to deal with exhaustion, how to maintain healthy relationships, and how to manage the stresses of parenting.

SmartParent messaging is comprehensive and evidence-based.  Developed with BC’s regional health authorities, Perinatal Services BC, ChildHealth BC, the First Nations Health Authority, the BC Ministry of Health, FASD Canada, and the BC Association of Pregnancy Outreach Programs, SmartParent has been endorsed by the Canadian Pediatric Society.  SmartParent is different than an app, in that text messages arrive by phone, without requiring busy, tired parents to search for information.

We hope that SmartParent will improve parental knowledge, competence and confidence.

Patti Janssen

PWIAS associate, Dr. Patricia Janssen, a perinatal epidemiologist and Professor at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health, brings 25 years of obstetrical and public health nursing experience to the development of the project.  Shaina Pennington, an MSc prepared epidemiologist, brings extensive experience in mobile health to the project and is the primary liaison with our industry partner, Memotext.  Memotext, based in Toronto developed the proprietary software to push messages to subscribers, anchored to the infant’s birthdate.

SmartParent follows the launch of SmartMom, a text-messaging program delivering prenatal education to expectant parents.  To date, over 10,000 new mothers have enrolled in SmartMom. Our mobile health technology removes barriers of geography, inclement weather and road conditions, low socio-economic status, stigma associated with membership in disadvantaged sub-populations, and lack of available classes, to provide accurate and accessible information to expectant parents. SmartParent was funded by PWIAS as a Wall Solutions Initiative, and has also received support from the UBC Hampton Fund, SSHRC, and the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

We hope that SmartParent will improve parental knowledge, competence and confidence.  We will also be comparing rates of non-routine physician visits, vaccination rates, use of emergency services and hospitalizations.  SmartParent is now offered throughout BC and we plan to expand across Canada and internationally.  In addition, we are developing a companion app that will permit interactive learning opportunities.  We are currently working with Elders of the Syilx Nation in the Interior Health Authority Region to create a version of SmartParent, infused  with cultural teachings, songs, and stories ,which will serve as a venue to teach the Nsyilxcen language to new parents.

Author: Patricia Janssen
Photo: David Veksler on Unsplash