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Lisa Bernstein- The What To Expect Foundation's Baby Basics Prenatal Health Literacy Program has a group (and other components) that are all created to work with and for everyone that cares about healthy pregnancies. Here are the components:

The Baby Basics book and planner

Each expecting mom receives a copy of Baby Basics or Hola Bebe, an evidence-based prenatal guide that is health literate, culturally competent, and fun to read. For some mothers it is the only written source of comprehensive information for their pregnancy, for other moms it can be the first book they have ever wanted to read, or even owned. The planner is a portable medical record that gives moms a place to write down questions and important information, and coordinate her appointments.

The Baby Basics Clinical QI Program

With training, coaching and technical assistance Baby Basics tools and strategies become the cornerstone of a center wide quality improvement initiative at the health center. The training engages all the employees, from the Receptionist and Medical Assistant, to Social Workers, Nurses, and Doctors so they can use health literacy tools and strategies to better communicate and engage moms in their care.

“Moms Club helped me to know when I was having preterm labor. I went to my hospital labor and delivery and they were able to stop my contractions. Because of things I learned in Moms Club I understand why it is so important to not deliver your baby early. This club is helping me to take better care of myself during my pregnancy and become a better parent."

Natalie H. (Moms Club member, 34 weeks)

The Baby Basics Health Education Program

Home Visitors, Peer educators, case managers, nurses, social workers and even volunteers can use the Baby Basics book, planner, and Mom’s Club Curriculum one-on-one with moms. The tools and curriculum help educators understand and practice the Baby Basics philosophy of engaging pregnant women and empowering them to take charge of their care -- partnering instead of preaching. The curriculum provides modules and activities to combine prenatal health education with health literacy skills so educators have real tools to help mothers learn how to ask questions, look up health information and learn important vocabulary words, while learning to use books and other sources to actively find information and engage in their care.

Baby Basics Moms Clubs

Photograph of abdomen of a pregnant woman

What do pregnant women want? To talk to other pregnant women.

When the What To Expect Foundation held focus groups with pregnant moms in order to collect stories and data for the *Baby Basics* book we had a Hard time ending the sessions. We literally couldn’t get moms out of the room. They wanted to stay on and keep talking. It made sense, here were other women who were going through exactly the same things and were just as excited and nervous about having a baby. How better can a newly pregnant mom learn to deal with morning sickness than to ask an eight month pregnant mom what she did? Who can best support a lonely, nervous pregnant teen than another pregnant teen? That’s how the Baby Basics Moms Clubs were born.

“I am recently separated and have no family in the area. This group has become my family and I look forward to coming every week. They let me bring my son with me and I learn something new at every meeting. They have helped me connect with resources for things I need."

Hope M.(Moms Club member, 27 weeks)

Baby Basics Moms Clubs are not group prenatal care. (There is an Evidence based, well-replicated model of group prenatal care called Centering Pregnancy for those interested in group care.) The philosophy behind moms clubs is more closely aligned with theories of informal or group education. And while Freire’s philosophy was very much an inspiration, these groups have a clear curriculum (because we are careful to make sure that all health information shared and passed on is correct) so they cannot be called “popular education” groups. But the curriculum was created very much from the adult literacy perspective (with help from the Literacy Assistance Center of NY) and the input and review of prenatal health educators, so that every activity meets moms where they are, and helps the group work together to identify their questions and concerns and figure out together how to find and assess information.

The Baby Basics Moms Clubs are facilitated (not led by) trained health educators, nurses, adult literacy educators, social workers, or peer support workers. They are meant to bring pregnant women together and give them the opportunity to explore issues as a group. We have Moms Clubs running at Baby Basics Initiatives in Cleveland, across New York, New Jersey and SW Virginia and soon all across Baltimore. We suggest Moms Clubs not be held in clinical settings, but instead are in comfortable community spaces, such as libraries, community centers, restaurants (they are also Moms Clubs in some not so comfortable prisons, though.)

We’ve done lots of evaluation of the entire Baby Basics Prenatal Health Literacy Program (in fact we will release some very exciting data in a few weeks.) But we’ve learned lots about how to bring health literacy and the group dynamic into “teachable healthcare moments.” Baby Basics Moms Clubs are fun for moms, and it seems that they are fun for the facilitators too.

If you’re interested, the Tri-cities Baby Basics Moms Clubs of SWVirginia and Tennessee have a facebook page for their club here.

It is our hope (and we are seeing it already) that many of the Clubs stay together and go off the curriculum...more on that to come.

About Lisa Bernstein

Lisa Bernstein is the Executive Director and co-founder of The What To Expect Foundation. Bernstein was the former Associate Publisher of "Brain Quest", and has worked in the publicity, marketing, and editorial departments of many commercial book publishers including The New Press, Bantam Books, Henry Holt and Co., and Little, Brown and Co. At Workman Publishing she promoted Heidi Murkoff and Arlene Eisenberg’s What To Expect pregnancy and parenting series. Her publishing experience, coupled with a stint as a volunteer literacy tutor with substance abusing, teens on probation at Odyssey House's Drug Rehab Center is what sparked her passion for literacy education as a way to break cycles of poverty, illiteracy, and infant mortality.

Lisa and Heidi started The What To Expect Foundation with the simple mission of creating a lower-literacy pregnancy guide that addressed the needs of underserved pregnant families. That book, Baby Basics, is now available in 3 languages, and has grown to become a nationwide prenatal health literacy program that provides health and literacy support to families in-need, and teaches healthcare providers and educators how to better communicate and empower low-literate and immigrant families. 500,000 moms across the country have received a free copy of Baby Basics from their doctor, home visitor or managed care provider. There are major Baby Basics Initiatives across New York and New Jersey, in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Palm Beach and Baltimore.