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Timeline-based To-do Lists for the Prenatal-through-Postnatal Experience

Restructuring complex info into timely task-based lists can simplify and reduce mental load throughout this often overwhelming journey.

Photo of Anna Lee
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In no more than 3 sentences, please tell us who your idea is designed for and how it reimagines the new life experience.

This idea is designed particularly for under-resourced expectant parents in the United States, but can work for anyone. Recognizing that mental load (aka cognitive load) is a significant barrier to entry in navigating a complex/ fractured healthcare system, this idea takes a user-centered approach to information delivery to structure info 1) as tasks, 2) progressively disclosed as needed, and 3) in a single, accessible, location with open-sourced content.

Two thought experiments
1) If you've ever recently bought a home office printer, you might have noticed that it came with two manuals -- one with a detailed diagram of all the components in the machine and their functions, presented in 10 languages with an alphabetic index at the back, and another 3-step, illustrated "Quick Start" guide. Now, imagine your boss is breathing down your back and you must have something printed out within 5 minutes. Which manual do you choose?

2) Imagine you have relocated to live in a foreign country. Having had very little time to plan for the move, you are now on the ground there on your first day, holding two books: a 400pp treatise on the economic and cultural history of your new country and a local phrasebook with sections such as "banking" and "restaurants." You are hungry, you don't have any local currency, and you don't have any friends nearby who could help. Which book do you open first?

Planning a journey

For many, the transition from pregnancy through to parenthood is like a being given a complicated new appliance with no clear instructions, or embarking on a journey to a new land without an appropriate guidebook. 

Of course, it helps to have information about what the future holds, and much of that is freely available in various languages on the Internet. But the path of nurturing a healthy baby from pregnancy through birth requires specific actions -- relating to insurance, medical appointments, personal health, employment, etc. -- at specific times throughout the journey. 

A. Task lists organized by timeline
This idea proposal would take already-existing informational resources about the prenatal-through-postnatal journey -- sourced from reliable government and NGO organizations -- and reorganize them into timely, task-based lists. Designed particularly for under-resourced expectant parents in the United States, this idea recognizes that mental load (aka cognitive load) is a significant barrier to entry in navigating a complex/ fractured healthcare system and takes a user-centered approach to information delivery to structure info 1) as tasks, 2) progressively disclosed as needed, and 3) in a single, accessible, location with open-sourced content. 

Why open-sourced?
The challenges of the prenatal-through-postnatal journey differ significantly from person to person: Mr. and Ms. A may be very familiar with the process of giving birth in their home country, but be completely new to navigating the healthcare system in the U.S.; Ms. B may have a rough idea having seen members of family or friends give birth, but is too busy working 2 low paying jobs and navigating the public benefit system to research and read articles; Mr. C might want to support his fiancé as her pregnancy develops but have little knowledge about either the health, medical or insurance aspects of pregnancy and finds most information about it to be targeted towards women. I believe that it is possible to build a flexible, customizable, modular, task-oriented guidebook that can be tailored to different needs by first creating a "base" guidebook with generic, top-level information, with links to national resources, and then allow interested parties (NGOs, non-profits, community organizations, etc) to "fork" the original guide to create similar timeline-based To-do Lists for their communities, whether that means translating the documents to different languages, adding resources for specific cities and regions, or creating guides for individuals with specific health concerns.

In the U.S., most public benefits for under-resourced individuals are available at the local and state-level, and non-profits operate through local or regional chapters, under different requirements and rules. Maintaining these To-do Lists in an open-source environment would allow a community organization in Toledo to "fork" and create a "Prepregnancy: Toledo, OH" list, and for a newly pregnant woman who just moved to Toledo to see at-a-glance the phone numbers and websites of organizations relevant to her new home.

Turning information into action
As we all know, knowing something is not the same as doing it, and reading something once or twice doesn't mean that you will remember it when the time comes. Whether an individual is under-resourced financially or not, information delivered via different modalities (text, sound, image, combination) and media (print-out, phone call, website) will have varying levels of effect depending on age, culture, ability and other conditions. The "distance" between information ("I read the phone number on the website") and action ("I read it 2 weeks ago, but I didn't have time to call, and now I have time but I don't have the number.") is a "friction" point that can prevent many necessary actions from occurring. For this reason, I believe that an important supplement to this idea proposal is to explore different ways to allow users to keep the most relevant information on hand, available for when they need it the most. It is important to recognize that some users don't have regular Internet access, a personal computer, a smartphone and/or a home printer; and that even those who can access the Internet may have little personal time or skills to use it. 

Following, are two ideas for allowing users to take the To-do Lists with them as printouts (A) or in the form of an app (B). Of course there are other ways that could be explored as well, including an e-newsletter or text message service (similar to the one or that sends you updates on your developing baby based on the due date) that could would send you links and contact info to local resources in a timely fashion, if you enter in the date of your missed period and your ZIP code.

B. Printables
One such method might be free downloadable printable templates. While printed out To-do Lists can't be updated or link to resources, they offer an immediate benefit of always being handy for the user. They can also be used in a modular way, and supplemented by other printables so that each individual can download and print only the sections that pertain to her or him. An example might be if Ms. A has been diagnosed with diabetes in her 2nd Trimester, she can download the 2nd Trimester To-do List for Diabetics, an Appointment Log to record notes about her frequent doctor visits and a Blood Sugar Chart. In addition, because these open-sourced To-do Lists have non-restrictive copyright, local health organizations and doctors offices would be free to print them out and distribute them on-site or by mail.

C. App
Another method could be to make the To-do Lists also available as a mobile app. For some users, after the initial download or update of their app, having all the information accessible while they are offline could be a real benefit. Additionally, providing this content in app form would allow the addition of other useful features such as the ability to add one's own private To-do items, or scan important papers (referrals, lab reports, prescriptions) for safekeeping.

See the PDF of this map here.

For convenience, I've called these ToDo Lists a temporary name: "Bean2Baby," and created a very rough and broad user journey to describe how it might be implemented across various media. I think take this idea beyond the "napkin sketch" phase, more research needs to be done about the needs and typical experiences of more specific user personas within the "under-resourced mom" category. In addition, I recognize that the scope of this idea is pretty broad and represents a few different sub-ideas (A, B and C), and it would be useful to do a feasibility study to see which area could be developed to have the most efficient impact.

At what stage is your idea?

  • Back of the Napkin Sketch: I came up with this concept and would love support in making it come to life!

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I mocked up two To-do Lists on Github, and created two downloadable "printables."
See them here:

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Product and project management: I think this idea would develop best under the auspices of an NGO or government entity that has the staff to generate, manage, edit and moderate the content of an open source community.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a mom with 5 years experience, and a freelance UI/UX designer with 17 years experience in visual communication and interaction design for advertising, marketing, branding and web.

This idea emerged from...

  • An Individual

Are you an expecting, new, or experienced mom?

  • yes

Are you a healthcare practitioner?

  • no

Are you a current employee of UCB Pharmaceuticals or Sutter Health?

  • no

Find this idea inspiring? Add your own!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Bettina

Hi Anna Lee.
Great idea! Thanks for sharing it here.
As you mention some users may not have computers, printers, or internet access at home. As a mechanism to get Lists to users I wonder if targeting health care providers/clinics, or services such as WIC that low income women access during pregnancy, as partners, might be a way to connect them to this resource?

Photo of Anna

Thanks for raising this point, Bettina! While this idea proposal mostly focuses on using an open source framework to develop reliable and free content, conducting outreach to deliver the information where it's needed is so so so important. As free, non-licensed content, any organization -- whether it's a public WIC office, community health clinics, public library, coffeeshop, laundromat -- should feel free to customize the Lists, print them out and distribute them, even co-brand them if they want. It would definitely be effective to target WIC services to raise awareness of this resource, especially since not only can they be involved in customizing content (a local WIC office can update the local To-do List w/ local resources for groceries, breastfeeding support, etc), they can also distribute it to those who most need it!

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