Father’s Playbook App: The Payoff of a Long-term Health Communication Research Program

Father's Playbook App: The Payoff of a Long-term Health Communication Research Program

By Mike Mackert

Two weeks ago I had the chance to enjoy one of the most exciting moments of my career in health communication research and practice: the major public launch of the Father's Playbook app — an app designed to get expectant fathers involved in prenatal health and beyond. While there had been an early English-only version of the Google Play store, this was the first time we launched with a bilingual version that was available on both Google Play and the App Store. The public launch represents the hard work of a lot of colleagues over the years, from a variety of disciplines, and important support from funders, of course.

One of the reasons this has been exciting is that I've been writing and publishing in this area for a long time. It goes back to at least 2013, reflecting on a research agenda that could better engage men in prenatal health. We explored use of a mobile app designed for expectant mothers to engage men in prenatal health, and then built and tested content designed specifically to involve expectant fathers. Each individual project represented an incremental step forward to developing and launching an app to engage expectant fathers in prenatal health, an approach that has been shown in a variety of contexts to improve health outcomes from mothers and babies.

The other thing that's made this project possible and fun is the way findings and ideas from one project can translate to another. So many of the things that make the app interesting and promising — a focus on engaging and accessible content for users with all levels of health literacy, the potential to tailor information based on user characteristics, etc. — come from the broader evidence base of health communication and other projects I've been involved with. The underlying theories, research, and practice of health communication can be applied across health issues and populations, so we aren't just starting from scratch on every project.

We're working hard to promote the Father's Playbook app (Twitter, Facebook, and even a page for providers to request information for their clients coming soon), so if you know providers who would be interested or expectant fathers, please share. I'm proud of where we are now, of course, but also excited about how the Father's Playbook app can be a platform for all kinds of health communication research and practice in the coming years.