New conversational digital intervention to promote preconception health

A new conversational digital intervention is being developed to promote preconception health and empower women to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyle behaviours, thanks to project funding supported by the Monash Institute of Medical Engineering (MIME) and Monash Partners Academic Health Science Centre.

A woman’s behaviour during their reproductive years has the potential to impact their fertility, pregnancy outcomes and overall health; regardless if they want to fall pregnant.

Little is currently known about this with digital interventions that promote behavioural change presently not available.

A new form of digital software being developed by Dr Jue Xie, Dr Ruth Walker, Dr Ling Wu and Associate Professor Jacqueline Boyle from Monash University is set to change this and promote preconception health and trigger women to take actions and make small changes to their lifestyle that can have long-term impact.

“For those who are actively planning to become pregnant, ideally women should be supported to adopt and maintain health behaviours months, and even years, before conception. This notion is also relevant to those not planning on falling pregnant as health behaviours will have implications on general health and wellbeing,” said Dr Walker and Associate Professor Boyle.

“Despite the documented benefits of preconception care, many women do not access it. And, of those who do, many find the care they receive is inadequate. Digital health interventions offer an option for women to engage with personalised risk assessment and information when it is convenient for them.”

“Although there is an abundance of existing digital wellbeing solutions, they rarely cover information related to preconception health, do not offer social connections for health from those with lived experience or do not provide emotional support, leaving them ineffective.”

“We understand that women in the age group we are targeting (18-45 years) are busy, and can sometimes be inpatient and lack motivation to engage with new digital services.”

“We believe our engaging, intuitive and trustworthy “human-like” interactive virtual agent software can be an effective solution to communicate preconception care for Australian women. It provides women with the opportunity to talk to someone via easily accessible social media platforms already used in their everyday life. This will work to identify and mitigate risk factors prior to pregnancy, and improve long term health outcomes for women and children,” said Dr Xie and Dr Wu.

Next steps in the research involve building a prototype and integrating the software into existing social media platforms.

This project was made possible thanks to Monash Institute of Medical Engineering (MIME) Seed Funding which is supported by Monash Partners Academic Health Science Centre.