Healthy Tomorrow App To Help Women With Opioid Use Disorder

McMillen Health is reaching out to organizations that serve pregnant or recently pregnant women with opioid use disorder (OUD) and their babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in Allen County with a new tool offering a Healthy Tomorrow. Indiana’s rate of NAS is about 30% higher than the national average: 15.7% of all Indiana babies test positive for opioids and opioid use rates continue to skyrocket. Agencies can contact McMillen Health for promotional kits to share the recently launched Healthy Tomorrow app in an effort to reach 300 Allen County women who will help pilot the tool. McMillen’s Healthy Tomorrow app fills a vital education gap for women and children with OUD and NAS.

“Healthy Tomorrow was born from the stories of women with OUD who could not find reliable, quality health information on pregnancy, infancy and OUD and its far-ranging implications,” says Nicole Fairchild, Executive Director of McMillen Health, the oldest independently operated health education center in the US. “Healthy Tomorrow delivers friendly, easily-digestible health education in short video format for women and their infants, babies and young children. Agencies who serve Allen County women with this diagnosis can help us reach them with this tool.”

Healthy Tomorrow reflects guidance from two advisory groups composed of local pregnant or recently pregnant women with OUD and the professionals who serve them. Both groups shared their struggles in finding relevant health education in McMillen’s community health needs assessment, “In Her Words: Opioid Use Disorder and Pregnancy.” The women’s stories and research confirmed a lack of easy to understand resources and the women’s preference for education to be offered in video format from their phones which they won’t easily lose, unlike brochures.

McMillen’s app features short, welcoming videos on prenatal care, infant development, mental health, recovery planning and a variety of OUD and maternal and infant health topics. In Healthy Tomorrow, women can complete a pretest, watch a category of videos, then complete a posttest to earn badges that they can redeem at A Baby’s Closet in Allen County for baby goods. Evaluation results will help McMillen Health improve the app’s performance.

Fort Wayne pediatrician Dr. Tony GiaQuinta, then President of the Indiana Association of Pediatricians, approached McMillen Health in 2018 to develop quality educational materials for pregnant women with OUD based on growing needs and the lack of resources for medical staff and their clients.

Every 15 minutes in the US, a baby is born with opioid withdrawal. When pregnant women are using opioids, whether through a prescription or through illicit use, the drug and dependency passes to the baby. 75-90% of infants exposed to opioids in utero experience sudden withdrawal at birth with symptoms called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Infants with NAS suffer tremors, screaming, seizures, breathing problems, poor feeding, and low birthweight.

“Our goal with the Healthy Tomorrow app is to help women and their partners parent to the best of their abilities and to help children exposed to opioids in utero reach their full potential,” says Fairchild. “McMillen believes everyone has the right to health information presented in a way they can understand. We have expertise in communicating preventive health education in formats easily understood by the general public, which we are compelled to offer for the benefit of some of our most precious and vulnerable populations: mothers and children.”

McMillen is phasing in app updates over the next year including developing a community forum for women to chat with each other in a safe, shame-free environment as well as a professional portal, allowing home visitors, physicians, and other professionals serving these women to follow their progress. The app content will be expanded over the next four years to include prenatal health and safe sleep, tobacco use during pregnancy, nutrition, and the importance of breastfeeding.

The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation provided the initial support for the In Her Words community report and the Healthy Tomorrow app. McMillen Health received additional support for the app from the PHP Foundation, the Dr. Louis and Anne B. Schneider Foundation, the English-Bonter-Mitchell Foundation and the Delta Dental Foundation of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina. The nonprofit is seeking funds to complete the next two phases of app development.

The Healthy Tomorrow app is available through Apple and Google Play at no cost. More information and a link to the community report In Her Words: Opioid Use Disorder and Pregnancy is online at: mcmillenhealth.org/healthy-tomorrow/

Any organization serving pregnant or recently pregnant women with OUD and their babies with NAS in Allen County should contact Megan Wilkinson, McMillen Health Director of Curriculum Development at (260) 456-4511 x 331 or mwilkinson@mcmillenhealth.org to receive a promotional kit about the Healthy Tomorrow app.

McMillen Health, the number one resource for vital, effective preventive health education in our region for more than 40 years, serves nearly 90,000 students of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds annually – reaching 2 million since its inception. McMillen offers 200 fact-based, interactive, and memorable programs on physical, social, and emotional well-being – far beyond its esteemed reproductive health and drug prevention programming. Outside of the classroom, McMillen develops high-quality, low-literacy health curricula, resources, videos, and media to support people with specific health education needs. Today, McMillen serves internationally and right here at home, with a continued focus in northern Indiana. McMillen believes in education today for a healthy tomorrow. Learn more and support a healthy tomorrow at mcmillenhealth.org

The Waynedale News Staff
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