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New phone app to strengthen new parents' engagement with health services

Posted on 19/11/2014
pregnant woman and phone

Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London have helped develop a new phone app to guide parents from conception through to the first six months of a baby’s life.

The Baby Buddy app provides parents with a unique “Buddy” avatar that gives tailored health and wellbeing information, sends regular messages with timely reminders and video information, and enables the parent to set goals, manage health appointments and find local groups and resources using its geo-location functionality. The app is packed with the most up-to-date information available and has been tested by hundreds of young parents, midwives, paediatricians, health visitors and doctors.

Baby Buddy has been developed by Best Beginnings, a parenting charity which aims to end child health inequalities in the UK. Smartphone ownership in the UK is increasing dramatically, with over 80 per cent of 16-24 year olds from lower socio-economic groups owning one. Best Beginnings has created Baby Buddy with the younger mother in mind, as research shows they are less likely than older parents to access maternity care early in pregnancy, less likely to keep appointments and less likely to attend any form of antenatal education.

The app is designed to:

  • encourage young mothers to book early with their midwife and reduce missed appointments through the Baby Buddy’s interactive calendar
  • help make “Every Contact Count” by providing parents with a place to store questions they may have for upcoming appointments in a “Remember to ask” list. The app also provides the opportunity for joint goal setting using the “You can do it” feature
  • increase the uptake of local services, for example by signposting users to local groups and NHS services using the geo-location feature of the app and also through the app’s daily information and video prompts

As well as the Department of Health, Baby Buddy is also endorsed by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association, the Institute of Health Visiting and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists with other endorsements expected before the official November launch. 

Founder and CEO of Best Beginnings Alison Baum said: “We are serious in our mission to support families from all backgrounds to give their babies the best possible start. We’ve dived into the digital space because this is what families have told us they want. As they say “Apps is where it's at”, but this is no ordinary app. Through a huge amount of input from parents and professionals, we’ve created something that has never been done before.”

Dr Crispin Day, Head of the Centre for Parent & Child Support at the IoPPN, King’s College London, says: “Early life experiences are crucial to the well-being and development of human beings. Every parent needs access to high quality, accurate information during pregnancy and early infancy which they can use to best support the development of their growing baby.  The Best Beginnings Baby Buddy app is a significant step forward in our digital age. I look forward to the learning about the impact of the app from the results of the planned evaluation.”

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, Honorary Professor at King’s College London and Chair of Trustees, Best Beginnings said: “As someone who has worked in public health for more than 40 years I’ve seen many public health interventions come and go, but I really feel that Baby Buddy is going to have an enormous impact. The app is friendly, reassuring and supportive as well as being packed with practical information for expectant and new mothers, including many fantastic video clips. Importantly the content has been approved by a wide range of experts, so that people can really trust it.”

Additional information:

Baby Buddy was funded the Big Lottery Fund. Thanks to funding from the Guys and St Thomas’ Charity, the Royal College of Midwives and Blackpool Council, the Baby Buddy app is being actively embedded into service provision in Southwark and Lambeth and across Blackpool and formative research on the usability and likability of the app with parents and professionals is underway. In addition to these two evaluation sites, Best Beginnings’ is working with health and social care professionals in five other regions across England (Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Bradford, Lewisham and Leicester) to actively incorporate the Baby Buddy app into maternity and children’s services. These embedding programmes are designed to ensure that Baby Buddy reaches the families who need it most and also helps to support appointments with professionals.  With Big Lottery Fund funding, Best Beginnings has also produced free posters and leaflets about Baby Buddy for use in waiting rooms, GP surgeries and Children Centres. Local areas can order these via the Best Beginnings website.

For further information contact Claire Hastings, Press Officer at IoPPN, King’s College London, on +44(0)2078485377 or email claire.hastings@kcl.ac.uk

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