Gabby: a new tool for reproductive health
Kellogg grant supports improved family planning
Thanks to a team headed by Dr. Brian Jack, professor and chair of family medicine at the BU School of Medicine, there is now a simple, effective tool to help women make better and more personalized decisions about family planning and reproductive health. With support from a $360,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, he has developed a web application called the Gabby Preconception Care System, or “Gabby” for short.
Gabby’s interactive design is tailored so young women, especially young minority women of modest health literacy, can use it easily in a nonintimidating web environment to share and receive personalized information aimed at improving their reproductive health decisions. Dr. Jack’s goal is to propel this important work to improve the quality of information delivered to women facing such decisions.
While the Centers for Disease Control has endorsed Preconception Counseling and Care (PCC)—which often includes a general health assessment and identification of any risk factors—as an effective way to reduce racial disparities in maternal and child health, the majority of young women simply aren’t familiar with PCC and don’t ask for it. Also, many physicians don’t have time in their schedules to consistently provide personalized counseling. Gabby is designed to overcome these barriers by making preconception counseling more personalized and private, and more accessible than ever before.
Gabby is designed to make preconception counseling more personalized and private, and more accessible than ever before.”
Current web-based counseling platforms provide only basic information. Gabby revolutionizes the approach by creating an interactive and relatable environment. Not only can users of the interface choose to have the information they receive repeated as many times as they need, but Gabby (in the form of an animated character) has also been created to have an empathic and nonjudgmental personality, with responses that are consistent and free of bias. Gabby’s developers say these attributes are nearly impossible to control and reproduce in traditional counseling models.
The application is being built in line with best practices in clinician-patient interaction and can be used independently or as part of a coordinated, community-based healthcare program. Early trials suggest that Gabby—which will be available to users without charge—has the potential to decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies and low-birth-weight babies. Dr. Jack and his colleagues are now conducting tests in large randomized clinical trials and building out the final, consumer-ready version of Gabby that will be released to the public.