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Beginnings Guides
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Beginnings Guides Blog

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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