Nest for Families
The Challenge: In an ideal maternal health system, all parents would have access to comprehensive, seamless medical care with links to behavioral, economic, and social supports as needed. They would be engaged in this system before, during, and after pregnancy. Sadly, the reality of our US maternal health system is quite different, with many lacking access to even basic services. This is especially true for families who live in geographic isolation, experience poverty and often don’t have access to quality perinatal care or general parenting support. A recent study indicated that fewer than 50% of birthing parents who live in rural areas have access to perinatal care within 30 miles of their home. Without this type of improved and enhanced care, a range of negative maternal health outcomes increase, and continue to disproportionately impact communities of color and indigenous populations.
What can be done: Delivering perinatal and early childhood support in areas where families are geographically isolated or otherwise lack access to a service provider can be challenging, but technological innovations are emerging. Technology proactively expands access to lactation care and behavioral health services, including treatment for perinatal anxiety and mood disorders, relationship issues, workplace stress, general anxiety, parenting and infant feeding support. These digital healthcare solutions can decrease the gap to access experienced by many isolated families, and digital options can increase timely engagement with care for all parents.
How Nest for Families (Nest) is meeting the challenge: Nest provides critical parenting services, delivered virtually, to increase resilience and connection for pregnant and parenting families in Hawai’i throughout the first 1,000 days of life. By sending simple, culturally-attuned and engaging text messages from a team of familiar peer educators, supported by lactation and behavioral health clinical specialists, Nest creates meaningful impact using accessible technology. Combining semi-automated two-way messaging with merge-field technology assures all participants receive personalized, evidence-based guidance at key moments in their early parenting journey. Nest’s intensive two-way text messaging provides timely and authentic connection for parents in a region where over 30% of expectant parents have late or no prenatal care, with many families living in geographic isolation and poverty. Nest reaches families who are least likely to otherwise receive the critical support they need, and is there for them in key trouble moments. As one participant put it, “You tell me just what I need to hear exactly when I need to hear it.”