This post is the third in a series of articles, written by Barre Morris, about an innovative fatherhood pilot program. For context, read Part 1 and Part 2 in this series. Part 1 focused on how this model came about. Part 2 described the model and the pilot project to test it, including the maternal and child health outcomes used to evaluate it. This final part focuses on the results of the pilot project.
Involving fathers in maternal and child health programs is a vital tool in addressing racial and ethnic disparities in health care. Fathers and men have been ignored in health care programs generally, let alone those that seek to improve maternal and child health.
This is a gross oversight that increases the risk of poor maternal and child health outcomes. Research shows that fathers’ engagement in their children’s lives is important, and that starts even before their children are born. Fathers indirectly impact fetal development, birth weight, and preterm birth, in addition to infant and childhood development, health and social well-being. When fathers are involved and supportive of the mother during pregnancy, mothers tend to obtain prenatal care earlier. Mothers also reduce smoking, drinking, and illicit drug use. And they tend to exercise more and eat healthier while pregnant.
In acknowledging the importance of fathers, Memorial Hermann—a nonprofit, values-driven, community-owned health system in Houston, TX—identified opportunities to reduce gaps in health care that address racial and ethnic disparities, and to engage and serve fathers when focusing on the well-being of mothers and children. (For additional background, read Part 1 of this series.). In May of 2022, I had the privilege of leading Memorial Hermann’s MEDIC (Maternal Equity Diversity Inclusion Committee) project team in launching the system’s first family-centered perinatal education pilot project, part of Memorial Hermann’s Women and Children’s service line. Its aim was to reduce the risks of adverse maternal and child health outcomes.
The free program ran for 12 consecutive weeks at all of Memorial Hermann’s 13 labor and delivery sites. We offered the program to couples at high risk of poor maternal and child birth outcomes; specifically, mothers in their second trimester of pregnancy and the fathers or male partners. National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) provided MEDIC with the evidence-based and evidence-informed curricula that form the foundation of the program, 24:7 Dad® for fathers/male partners and Understanding Dad™ with Mom as Gateway™ for mothers. We recruited participants through the Memorial Hermann’s Medical Group of Obstetricians and the Memorial Hermann website. (Click here to view the promotional flyer for the program.) We launched an internal volunteer campaign to recruit and train employees as facilitators for the NFI programs.
Results of the Pilot
Of the mothers who participated in the pilot, more than half (60%) completed it. Exactly one half of the fathers/male partners completed it. We evaluated the program by measuring specific maternal and child health outcomes for the couples who participated in it. (For a list of the outcome measures, see Part 2 of this series.) We also measured knowledge acquisition by and self-efficacy of mothers and fathers related to the impact of the NFI programs.
The results were impressive. We found:
- No maternal or child morbidities from the start to the end of the program.
- No readmissions of mothers after giving birth.
- 100% of the mothers breastfed their babies upon discharge from the hospital.
- No babies experienced symptoms of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (conditions caused when a baby withdraws from certain drugs they are exposed to in the womb).
- There was only one complication reported—a 34-week premature delivery.
- Mothers’ and fathers’ knowledge and self-efficacy (e.g., with parenting) increased.
The Next Step
The results of the pilot led us to add the program as a permanent part of parent education in Memorial Hermann’s family-centered perinatal education effort! We look forward to deepening our partnership with NFI.
For a summary of the pilot and its results, click here to download a handy one-page poster.
Barre Morris is a father of three children ages fifteen to twenty-five. He is a certified Project Management Professional and has managed IT software development projects and led project teams for over twenty years. He is a former college Computer Science Instructor, Microsoft IT Sr. Program Manager, and an award-winning Microsoft Application Platform Solution Specialist for their Energy sales market. Barre is also a powerful and compelling public speaker earning Toastmaster International's Competent Communicator and Leadership awards.
Presently, Barre manages projects, leads IT project teams, and clinical nursing teams to advance nursing science for one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in Texas, Memorial Hermann Healthcare System. As a result of his project management and team leadership, four (4) new Convenient Care Centers opened in the past three years on-time in the Houston metropolitan area. Patients and their families now have more convenient ways to access 24-hour emergency, imaging and diagnostics, lab, breast care, and Physical Therapy healthcare services in the largest city in the Southwest region of the United States.
In mid-July of 2000, Barre was left in a non-responsive coma for three days after he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A Dodge Ram pickup truck slammed into his car on the driver’s side –while racing against a Chevy Camaro through a red light. The wreck was so severe it required the Jaws of Life® to extract him from his vehicle. He flew on his first helicopter ride on Memorial Hermann Life Flight® to the Memorial Hermann Red Duke Trauma Institute in Houston, utterly unaware of everything going on.
In 2016, Memorial Hermann came to Barre’s rescue again. But, it was from a job loss and unemployment due to a recession within the oil and gas industry impacting him and the entire Houston job market. Barre had just recently relocated back to Houston due to a re-organization and dismissal from work at Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington, two years prior. While he was receiving outpatient rehabilitation services at TIRR Memorial Hermann for residual effects from his brain injury, Barre was also interviewing for a job at Memorial Hermann. Once he completed his therapy, Barre started his new job and career in healthcare at Memorial Hermann, as a Senior Project Manager within the Project Management Office of its Information System Division.
Over the past five years, Barre committed his study and training to the field of health and wellness. He is a certified Personal Fitness Trainer with the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), and an Integrative Health and Wellness Life Coach. Barre also completed the Father Engagement Certificate™ (FEC) training program from National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI).