Using behavioral sciences and technology to enhance development during pregnancy and early childhood
A key way to prevent premature births and infant mortality and morbidity, and to promote child development in general, is to give women timely information, resources, and support strategies before, during, and after pregnancy. This project harnesses the growing availability of mobile technology and pairs it with advances in behavioral sciences. The combination promises to improve access to available health resources and help families make better decisions. Since health care at medical clinics is universal in Uruguay, this type of intervention is expected to have stronger effects than similar programs implemented at early childhood centers.
Studies show the positive effects of family programs, but more evidence is needed to implement large-scale parenting programs. A promising option for this type of program uses information technology and behavioral economics to inform, communicate with, and educate families. Relatively low-cost instant messaging programs have been shown to positively influence outcomes in a variety of spheres, including health. The messages’ content aims to mitigate poor decisions caused by present bias, inattention, and the complexity of parenting; status quo bias; and the influence of negative identities.
The objective is to enhance child development and prevent premature births, low birth weight, and infant morbidity and mortality in obstetric and neonatal primary care settings. The program will develop, implement, and test out a pregnancy app and instant messaging intervention informed by behavioral sciences to improve prenatal care and pregnancy outcomes. It will also develop and test out an app for parents and an instant messaging intervention informed by behavioral science to improve postpartum care, bolster families’ parenting skills, and boost children's health and development.
Evaluation and Impact
The project will evaluate interventions in a randomized control trial at the country's largest maternity hospital, Hospital Pereira Rossell, which attended more than 6,000 births in 2019. It will use administrative records to measure prenatal care visits, birth outcomes, and infant morbidity and mortality. Measurements of child development and parent attitudes and behaviors toward parenting will be compiled directly as part of this component.