Postnatal support at the push of a button

PhD students win World's Challenge Challenge competition at Dal

- March 29, 2019

Dal students Brianna Richardson, Rachel Ollivier, and Justine Dol created a support service for new moms in Canada and Tanzania that text messages containing valuable information they might need during the first six weeks after birth. (Provided photo)
Dal students Brianna Richardson, Rachel Ollivier, and Justine Dol created a support service for new moms in Canada and Tanzania that text messages containing valuable information they might need during the first six weeks after birth. (Provided photo)

Welcoming a child into the world can be an empowering moment for many women, but new moms often have questions that remain unanswered due to a lack of access to postnatal information and support.

Justine Dol (PhD Health), Brianna Richardson (PhD Nursing), and Rachel Ollivier (PhD Nursing) addressed the need for increased access to sexual and reproductive health education in a global context. The women collaborated to create Essential Coaching for Every Mother, a text message-based information system for new mothers in Canada and Tanzania.

The innovation provides support to new moms in Canada and Tanzania by sending text messages that contain valuable information they require during the first six weeks after birth.

Justine, Brianna, and Rachel shared their project idea at the World’s Challenge Challenge (WCC) finals at Dalhousie, which took place earlier this month on March 14. A panel of three judges declared 'Essential Coaching for Every Mother' the winner of the Dal competition, earning the team a chance to compete at the international finals at Western University in London, Ontario this June.

Meeting global and local standards

Justine says her team ensures that the information received by mothers through the service is accurate and meets both global and local health standards.

“The one-way messages will be based on the best up-to-date evidence, existing World Health Organization guidelines, and local standards of postnatal care,” she says.

Messages will be tailored, piloted, and evaluated in both Tanzania and Canada and will cover newborn and maternal health topics such as breastfeeding and postpartum anxiety and depression.

“For Tanzanian mothers, Essential Coaching for Every Mother will be focused on reducing infant mortality by supporting mother in providing the best care for their babies,” says Justine.

Brianna, Justine, and Rachel competed in the Dal WCC event against opponents Matthew Smith (BACS), Lindsey Power (BSc), and Mariah Byers (BSc) who teamed up to create Community Grow. Their project’s initiative is dedicated to promoting sustainable food production for future generations. Community Grow uses urban farming as a sustainable means to increase food production in order to meet the increasing demands for the growing global population.

The World’s Challenge Challenge was started at Western University and aims to address global issues such as food security, global poverty, inequality, public health and environmental degradation. Students are encouraged to work in interdisciplinary teams of three to produce a solution to at least one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The road to victory

In the months leading up to the Dalhousie finals, Justine, Brianna, and Rachel say they were fortunate to receive support from colleagues, mentors, and faculty at Dalhousie as well as the IWK Health Centre. Their support team provided feedback and critiques on their presentation and helped the women anticipate certain questions to be asked by the judges.

Essential Coaching for Every Mother is not just a project for the three women, but a passion.

“The fact that we are already pursuing this innovation and had financial support from other funders helped us stand out from the competition. We are also very passionate about the idea.” says Rachel.

“We are seizing every opportunity to meet with individuals who offered to provide us feedback to strengthen our pitch,” says Justine. The team will work closely with faculty and professionals, namely Ivan Joseph (vice-provost of student affairs) and Jenny Baechler (senior instructor, School of Public Administration, Faculty of Management).

"At the finals at Western, we will have the opportunity to learn from experts in social innovation, which will help to strengthen our presentation," says Justine.

The team admits that while they remain confident about international finals, there is one catch — Justine is pregnant and due around the time of the finals.

“One change that will be unique to our presentation at Western will be the need to include Justine virtually, as she is due with her first baby just a few weeks before the pitch,” says Brianna. “This will add a special dimension to our presentation, especially given the personal relevance of our innovation.”


All comments require a name and email address. You may also choose to log-in using your preferred social network or register with Disqus, the software we use for our commenting system. Join the conversation, but keep it clean, stay on the topic and be brief. Read comments policy.

comments powered by Disqus