Magnolia Project participants have a new friend guiding them through their preconception health: Leela.
Leela isn’t a staff member or another participant — she’s an animated computer character that simulates face-to-face conversation. She’s part of the Gabby Preconception Care System, an innovative means of helping African American women improve their chances of having a health pregnancy and birth outcome.
Developed by the Boston Medical Center in partnership with the Relational Agents Group from Northeastern University, the information provided is based on the clinical recommendations published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Preconception Health and Health Care: The Clinical Content of Preconception Care. Magnolia participants, who began using the program in May, are taking part in a six-month study of the system.
The Leela system has been configured for delivery via internet, i.e., users can use the system on any computer, smart phone or hand-held device with web access. The system has been programmed to screen women for their general and reproductive health risks, educate them about those risks, assess their readiness for change and create a “My Health To-Do List,” which users may choose to share with their medical providers and other health advisors.
This system delivers information in a patient-centered way, tailored to the risks identified. It has a novel story-telling function that allows participants to listen to stories related to their health concerns. Users are invited to share their own stories; after review and some editing to remove identifiers or content that is not relevant or incorrect, new stories are made available to all users. This allows the content to be continuously updated so that it remains up-to-date in style, content, and syntax and allows the system to evolve to reflect the cultural norms of the users.
In event project participants do not have access to the internet, they may attend the weekly Gabby Life Course Group on site to participate. The Magnolia case managers are very involved in the Gabby activity.