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Beginnings Guides: Health Education Materials that Work

Beginnings Guides to pregnancy and parenting translate the science of prenatal care and early child development into practical guidance for parents.
The Pregnancy Guide, first published in 1989 as Beginnings: A practical guide through your pregnancy, is now in its 8th edition (2011). It has been distributed by home visitation programs, prenatal care providers and health insurance plans to more than 310,000 families. In surveys, mothers report sharing Beginnings with their partners, friends and relatives, and their doctors. Six  months after close
of service, nearly all mothers who participated in New Mexico’s Families First program were able to report where their copy of the Pregnancy Guide would be found. For example, one mother said, “They are stored with the newborn clothes for my next pregnancy.” Another said, “I gave it to my cousin who is pregnant.”
Beginnings Pregnancy Guide is not your usual pregnancy book.  Let me count the ways:

1) Conversational tone is easy, encouraging. It sounds like something you would actually say to a mother sitting next to you. The text reflects the conversations a caring, articulate, “patient-centered” practitioner who is up-to-date on the research would have with each mother at each visit if time allowed. Readability pioneer Rudolf Flesch documented that conversational tone using personal pronouns and common words increases readability and comprehension.
2)  Staged learning keeps info immediately applicable. Information is like
medication; it is easier to take and more effective is small doses. Adults learn in order to solve problems they have now. Information that is not immediately applicable is likely to be ignored or discarded and may be overwhelming. So the Beginnings Guides present essential information in a series of six booklets referenced by gestational age and the usual course of prenatal care. Selectively cover the content of each booklet in one or more visits depending on the family’s interests and needs and your frequency of visits.
3)  It’s short. Short words in short sentences in short paragraphs in short booklets increase readability, comprehension and recall. This “commitment to short” means focus is on the essentials. Even experienced mothers and educated first-timers who read everything about pregnancy welcome Beginnings’ focus on what really
matters at a particular point in pregnancy. We converted to the  8.5 x 5.5” booklets after mothers told us that format is easy to carry and store and “they don’t look or feel like homework”.
4) It’s designed to promote maternal health literacy.
More on that next time. ss
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