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Pregnancy and parenting: there's a Yukon app for that

Whether you have a bun in the oven or you're chasing after a crawling toddler, you'll soon be able to download an all-encompassing app designed to help Yukoners have healthy children.

Whether you have a bun in the oven or you’re chasing after a crawling toddler, you’ll soon be able to download an all-encompassing app designed to help Yukoners have healthy children.

A team of local physicians, programmers and designers has joined up to create Yukon Baby.

The app was conceived during Hacking Health, an event held in May that drew more than 100 innovators from across western Canada.

The goal was to brainstorm ideas to help improve health care in the North.

Health-care providers had one minute to pitch their ideas, while programmers and designers listened closely and picked their favourite projects to work on.

Shannon Ryan, a genetic counsellor in the Yukon, was part of a team of three that pitched the idea of an app for parents and parents-to-be.

The team, also made up of a physician and midwife, paired up with three local programmers and worked on a rudimentary version of the app for 48 hours that weekend.

Several months later, the app is almost finished and will likely be available in February, said Ryan.

She says it’ll be a great tool for Yukoners because it’ll give them a good idea of where all the closest resources are.

“Sometimes it’s hard for health-care providers to keep up with all the resources that are out there for parents,” she said.

This app, Ryan explains, is designed to offer all the resources an expectant mother would need to keep her baby healthy throughout pregnancy.

“There is a lot of turnover in the health-care field, too. When you’re a pregnant mother, everything is new.

“With this tool you’ll know where to get your tests, what you can expect during pregnancy, where can you go.”

Ryan became involved in the project because she wanted to find a way to help decrease the number of birth defects in the territory. Part of her responsibilities as a genetic counsellor includes birth defect surveillance.

According to a 2013 report on congenital anomalies in Canada, the Yukon has the fourth-highest congenital anomaly rate of any jurisdiction in the country. It also has the third-highest congenital heart defect rate.

That same report states that in Canada, approximately one in 25 infants is diagnosed yearly with one or more congenital anomalies.

The app will prioritize any community-specific resources. So if you’re expecting a child in Dawson City, the health centre on Church Street will likely pop up first.

Ryan said they’ve also incorporated fun tools to encourage parents to keep using the app, such as a contraction and a kick counter. There is also a place to input “baby firsts,” whether it’s a tooth, a step or a word.

Financial support for the app is close to being finalized.

“That’ll be extremely helpful so we don’t have to do this on our own time, and we can get paid for the hours that we put into this,” she said.

The first version of the app, available for free, will be for Android devices and then for iPhones.

Down the road it’ll be translated into French and eventually, turned into a dedicated website.

“Not everyone has a smartphone,” Ryan said.

“We heard from some of the community nurses that they would prefer to have something computer-based with their clients.”

A soft launch is planned in the early New Year so that the bugs can be worked out and feedback can be gathered ahead of an official launch.

“It’s great to see that our team is super motivated and wants to get this out,” Ryan said.

“The support we’ve received so far has been very positive. Community nurses are seeing this as a tool they can use to engage women.

“Most young women have a smartphone and they’re always on it, anyway.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at