Nursing Professor and Students Help Develop Postpartum Support App and Materials


Newborn babies are carefully monitored after birth for signs of distress and health issues, but what about their mothers? According to a Global Burden of Disease study conducted in 2015, the U.S. maternal death rate was 26.4 per 100,000 live births, exceeding the rate of many other developed countries.

To help address this issue, TCU’s Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences developed an app in conjunction with the UNT Health Science Center. Appropriately named “What About Mom?,” the app helps new mothers track a variety of symptoms that may signal more serious problems, including infections, bleeding, high blood pressure, heart problems and postpartum depression. It also serves as a resource for partners of new moms by offering tips on how to provide support.

The app is the brainchild of Teresa Wagner, DrPH, MS, CPH, RD/LD, CHWI, CHWC, DipACLM, an assistant professor at the UNTHSC School of Public Health. During the development process, she reached out to her colleague and former labor and delivery nurse, Harris College assistant professor Marie Stark, RNC-OB, and two public health nursing clinical groups to update new mother discharge materials typically distributed through hospitals.

“Helping patients and families understand risks gives them power to make decisions about their health,” Stark said. “Utilizing proven practices related to scientifically supported health information can improve health outcomes.”

TCU nursing students reviewed current postpartum materials to condense and develop health-literate (or scientifically informed) content after receiving training on health literacy from Dr. Wagner. The goal was to make sure the materials contained easy-to-understand terminology to communicate with patients at all educational levels. The students presented their work to obstetrics nurses at the Women’s Hospital at Baylor Scott & White as well as community health workers.

After incorporating the feedback, the students created a brochure and app with the help of TCU computer science student, Hunter Merritt ‘19. “The nursing students found value in developing partnerships with multiple groups to make a difference in maternal/infant health and minimize unintended harm to disadvantaged groups from a lack of education and understanding,” Stark said.

Nursing students from two Public Health Nursing Clinical groups compiled their experiences working on the “What About Mom?” brochure and app into posters that detailed the process and results of their efforts.

Nursing graduate Alexandra Wuller 19, who worked on the project, reflected that education and health literacy are key in addressing maternal mortality.

“Health literacy is critical, especially when a new mom returns home in a very vulnerable state,” she said. “Knowledge is power, and in these situations, knowledge may be the difference between life and death.”

Another student involved with the project, Amy Williams 19, felt that her work would translate well into her future career. “Knowing about what is happening in the community and the efforts to improve health outside the hospital will help me be able to implement upstream thinking into the daily care of my patients,” she said.

“Looking at the increase in all maternal deaths in the U.S. over the decades and the differences in maternal and infant death related to ethnicity/race, I developed a passion to find ways to enhance care,” Stark reflected. She hopes that the app can make an impactful difference in maternal and infant health, especially in disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.