Meet the Momma’s Kit, an At-Home Maternal Health Pack for Black Patients
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 09/25/2023 | 6 Minute Read
According to the CDC, Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate in the United States, with white women three times less likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause. One of the big reasons? Because doctors don’t take their concerns and complaints seriously.
Spora Health, an inclusive, virtual-first primary care provider that caters to BIPOC folk, knew something needed fixing. To help their patients, they developed a health monitoring system for pregnant Black individuals. The entire approach involves online education, a welcoming community, one-on-one support, and a kit to monitor and track their vitals, all from the comfort of their own home.
“Dan Miller, the founder and CEO of Spora Health, reached out to us, and he talked to us about the idea of a maternal health kit that would help people in the third and fourth trimesters,” said Jordan Diatlo, CEO and design director at Leadoff Studio in New York City. “So the last three months before you give birth and the first three months after you give birth. That’s a very niche group, so we suggested to them to do an ethnographic research project.”
Leadoff Studio likes to design based on qualitative information, so while Spora Health approached the agency with supporting data and a thorough understanding of their customer, the agency also wanted more specific information on the emotional journey people go through during this time. The numerical and scientific data helped, but Leadoff wanted to dig into what would ultimately build up as much adherence to the program as possible. Not only did they turn to pregnant people for their input, but also doulas and physicians.
This research led to various insights into how to shape what would become the Spora Health Momma’s Kit. For starters, the Leadoff team heard many patients express distrust of the healthcare system as a whole, with many sharing instances where they felt that they were not heard or listened to. Because of that, the Momma’s Kit needed to be friendly, approachable, and an ally in the pregnancy journey. Leadoff also witnessed how precious time is for expecting and new parents, so the kit had to be something that could easily integrate into everyday life rather than seeming like another chore to check off a list. That—along with the realization that most people won’t sit down to read a lengthy list of instructions—meant that whatever they designed needed to be quick and easy to understand.
“We wanted people to sort of absorb this through osmosis,” Jordan explained. “They’re seeing a couple of sight words, but they're not really consciously reading, and instead, they're seeing a photo. We played around with some illustrations of this, but ultimately found that photographs resonate with the user group."
“We kept hearing and seeing it too that Black people, and Black women, especially, are underrepresented in media and underrepresented in something even as simple and mundane as product photography," Jordan added. "I've gotten feedback from some of my friends and people in my network that they love the photography because they love that I used somebody with their skin tone. They know it's for them by seeing that, and it immediately says that without them having to read what it’s for.”
Leadoff Studio understood it was also vital for the Momma’s Kit to be designed so users would actually use it. They asked users during their research phase how they liked to start new habits and routines, but it also didn’t feel like the most effective place from which to design.
“They are within themselves,” Jordan said. “I can give somebody else advice on how to start a habit, but I can't break my own bad habits, right? So we also asked the doulas, and their answers were a lot more telling. We asked them, ‘How do you get your clients to create a new routine, break a habit, or do something new to get ready for the experience of giving birth?’ One of the doulas we talked to told us about being everywhere for them without overwhelming them. And that became this overarching theme for the whole kit.”
The Momma’s Kit comes self-contained in a convenient Spora Health container, one that’s tall and skinny, acting as a sort of beacon within the home. You can easily leave the kit out without feeling like it’s obtrusive, and the purple gradient is soothing and gentle, and pairs easily with a wide variety of interior design settings. Inside the container, patients can use the small notebook with daily prompts if they prefer writing details down, or they can rely more on the app for recording information—so despite the Momma’s Kit size, it caters to people’s different preferences. Patients will also find a blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter, along with a few quick and easy forms featuring Leadoff Studio’s highly visual, easy-to-comprehend instructions on how to use each one (although more detailed instructions are also included, for those who want to dive into the literature).
“One of the things that I think this kit does well but really was the challenge was getting it to be efficient and effective in its communication,” Jordan said. “Hitting both of those is really tough. You start from this place of like, ‘Okay, there's eight steps to using this blood pressure cuff.’ Eight steps is way too many to tell somebody. If they see eight steps, they're going to give up at zero, and they're not going to look. So how do we get this down to a manageable amount where now people actually want to read it but still get all the right points across?”
Not only were the lovely lifestyle-like images helpful for doing just this, but the color choice helped direct people’s attention. Spora Health approached Leadoff Studios with set branding, and the agency’s job was to select what specific hues to use. To contrast with the purple, flashes of zesty orange and minty green make certain words in the sparse copy pop—which, in turn, streamlined the product’s big goal of helping people effortlessly stick to this program.
Jordan expressed deep gratitude for everyone who participated in the research phase because they helped make the Momma’s Kit what it is. Now, the kit provides them with the tools to monitor their health and record what’s going on with their bodies and has the added bonus of making them better advocates for themselves.
“All of the things in this case really give the users the benefit of arming themselves with quantitative data,” Jordan said. “I don't know if everybody's going to use every single part of it, but it creates a record. So when you do actually talk to your physician, now you can say, ‘Well, on this day, I was experiencing this, but then it stopped on this day, but now it's back.’ You have some data and a record that you can point to that's accurate.”
But if nothing else, Jordan hopes that the kit catches the attention of others in the healthcare industry or those who plan to one day become pregnant. The very need for the Momma’s Kit is a reminder of the biases that Black people face every day—and it shows us not only that life shouldn’t be that way, but by giving us a path forward that it doesn’t have to be.