259811 Pilot study of the use of a computer agent to provide information and support to breastfeeding mothers

Monday, October 29, 2012 : 9:05 AM - 9:20 AM

Roger A. Edwards, ScD , Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, MA
Timothy Bickmore, PhD , College of Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University, Boston, MA
Lucia Jenkins, RN, IBCLC , Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, Melrose, MA
Mary Foley, BSN, RN, IBCLC , Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, Melrose, MA
Background: Even though exclusive breastfeeding is the preferred choice of feeding for all infants, only 14.8% of infants are breastfed exclusively for six months. Initiation and continuation of breastfeeding can be difficult without healthcare professional and social support, especially during the critical time around birth. Resource constraints often prevent 24/7 support even in breastfeeding-supportive settings.

Methods & Setting: We developed and evaluated a tablet computer-based interactive, animated Computer Agent designed to provide knowledge and support to breastfeeding mothers in order to improve exclusive breastfeeding rates. Subjects were randomly assigned to either: a) have access to the Computer Agent via a tablet laptop prenatally and while in the hospital; or b) usual care. Subjects had access to the Computer Agent at a third trimester prenatal visit and 24/7 while admitted to the hospital for delivery.

Results: Fifteen primaparous women (mean age 27.9) participated. Breastfeeding knowledge was significantly greater in the intervention group compared to the control group (p<0.05).Breastfeeding self-efficacy and intent to exclusively breastfeed for six months were trending higher in the intervention group (not statistically significant). Intent to breastfeed for six months increased after the intervention group used the Computer Agent (within subjects) (p<0.05).

Conclusions: This pilot study demonstrated the feasibility of providing computer-based, customized support and information to breastfeeding mothers. Results suggest that there is a role for such technologies even in facilities with practices that are already supportive of breastfeeding. Ongoing work is focused on making the Computer Agent accessible via the Internet during the post-partum period.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Communication and informatics
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify three considerations associated with using animated computer agents to support breastfeeding mothers 2. Discuss challenges associated with conducting research with emerging technologies and expectant/breastfeeding mothers

Keywords: Breastfeeding, Computer-Assisted

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conceived and conducted this research in collaboration with my co-authors. I have an ScD, Health Policy & Management from the Harvard School of Public Health and an MS, Health Services Research from Stanford University
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.