To help with the transition to parenthood, UBC researchers have launched SmartParent, Canada’s first parenting education program delivered by text message.
Research by the Public Health Agency of Canada has shown that new parents in Canada often struggle to find the information they need. Additionally, access to postnatal care and resources is complicated by many other factors, including education level, stigma and discrimination, language, income, whether parents live in rural or remote areas, and isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has made things even more difficult for new parents because they haven’t been able to attend parenting classes or visit parenting drop-in centres. Many of the resources they would normally depend on are limited or closed due to safety protocols. SmartParent will help fill these gaps and eliminate barriers.
Founded be Dr Patricia Janssen, professor at UBC Faculty of Medicine’s School of Population and Public Health, SmartParent was developed by researchers from UBC in collaboration with Optimal Birth BC, the BC Ministry of Health, and BC health authorities, and in consultation with pregnant and new parents, practising nurses, doctors, midwives, and experts in maternal and child health.
SmartParent is modelled after the SmartMom program, a prenatal text messaging program that has been successfully supporting healthier pregnancies. The two programs are designed to work in tandem. SmartMom supports mothers with information during each week of their pregnancy, while SmartParent continues that support for parents from the birth of their child through the first year of life. During the pilot phase, SmartMom users showed lower rates of gestational diabetes and healthier pregnancy weights, and were less likely to smoke during their pregnancies than non-users. Their newborns were also healthier.
How SmartParent works
Parents receive three messages every week, each with a link to further information online. The messages are tailored to the infant’s age and stage of development to help guide parents through each week of their baby’s first year. The information is provided in an engaging, accessible format, intended to complement the information and support provided by parents’ health care providers.
Information parents will receive
Comprehensive, evidence-based information covers everything from growth and developmental milestones, infant safety, feeding and sleeping, follow-up and screening procedures, and vaccinations. SmartParent also provides information for parents about mental health and self-care. Parents will receive resources on how to deal with exhaustion, how to maintain healthy relationships, and how to manage the stresses of parenting.
How to sign up
Parents can register for SmartParent by texting the keyword smartparent to 12424, or by signing up at www.smartparentcanada.ca. Those interested in SmartMom can text smartmom to 12323 or visit www.smartmomcanada.ca.
1. Public Health Agency of Canada. What mothers say: The Canadian maternity experiences survey. Ottawa, 2009. Accessed 1 November 2020. www.publichealth.gc.ca/mes.
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