A new app for new mothers

March 3, 2021
Lois Levine

Barry S. Zuckerman, MD, founder of Reach Out and Read, hopes to personalize the patient-doctor relationship with a new app called Small Moments.

Barry S. Zuckerman, MD, founder of Reach Out and Read, hopes to personalize the patient-doctor relationship with a new app called Small Moments.

When pediatrician Barry S. Zuckerman decided to create the app, Small Moments, aimed at parents of babies aged 0 to 6 months old, he knew he wanted to do something different. He did so with the very first question the app asks: “How are you feeling as a mom?” His goal is to personalize what he sees as an increasingly depersonalized patient-doctor health care system.

Zuckerman is no stranger to startups. He is the co-founder of Reach Out and Read, a national literacy program that reaches 4.5 million children in the United States; co-founder of Health Leads and Healthy Steps, 2 programs designed to assist lower-income families in getting the best pediatric health care possible; and the author of more than 250 scientific publications addressing the importance that a mother’s health and well-being influences her child’s health outcomes.

In an interview with Contemporary Pediatrics®, Zuckerman discusses the app, why he created it, and his thoughts on the current state of health care for parents of infants, particularly in lower-income groups.

Contemporary Pediatrics®: What prompted you to create Small Moments?

Zuckerman: I have always been full of ideas about helping patients. Most of my career has been in the inner-city [and] I wanted to make a difference there. When I saw problems—wonderful, young children going to school and falling behind in reading, parents telling me there are no bookstores in the area, that books are too expensive, or because of their immigrant culture they simply didn’t buy books and read to their children—I needed to do something. And so we created programs to help, like Health Leads and Healthy Steps. But these were the steps to help with patients. I wanted to do something else that would connect the emotional experience with their caregivers, the low-income mothers. Something without finances being a barrier. So I created this app, which is free and also a tool for practitioners, to make the birth experiences and on more meaningful. I didn’t want to create a “how to” or “answers to common questions” app: There are plenty of those out there. I wanted something that would connect new mothers with their own emotions. More and more pediatricians, as a result of Electronic Health Records and issues with time, have had to depersonalize the relationship with the parents of babies.

How does the app work?

Parents and clinicians are using it. The app can be downloaded from the app store, and [then the new parent can] answer a series of questions about how they are feeling, what they think will help them at home, in terms of the new baby. There are also videos to watch, such as learning baby cues. Users can also create their own videos that they can share and discuss with their practitioner. In one case, a baby was having some trouble swallowing and so the grandmother moved in to help her daughter. The pediatrician thought it was terrific that she was getting help. And so, together, they watched a video on the app of a grandmother helping with her daughter’s baby. The patient’s response to this was a surprise for the physician, “Oh, my mother is driving me nuts. She is feeding what she wants to the baby. She is blaming me for the baby’s problems.” The practitioner would never have learned this backstory without the app.

What is the goal of Small Moments?

I really hope parents and clinicians can get deeper into the experience of what a mother is going through: That is when the health care provider can be the most helpful. Doctors can choose certain videos to send to a particular patient. For example, if a woman is feeling depressed after giving birth, she can see a video on that. It can be used for both in-office and telehealth visits for an increased connection. It’s part of real people dealing with real life. And I think that message is spreading.

You can download the app under Small Moments, Big Impact in the iPhone app store or on the website, smallmomentsbigimpact.com. Health care providers, click on the link below to view guidelines for using the app with patients.

This article was originally published on Contemporary Pediatrics®.