Mountain View, California-based chronic disease management company Livongo has launched new behavioral health program meant to help address the needs of expectant and young parents.

The new product represents one of the first major expansions of the company’s behavioral health offerings since the company’s acquisition of Denver-based behavioral health startup myStrength earlier this year.

Former myStrength CEO Scott Cousino, who currently serves as Livongo’s senior vice president of behavioral health, said the program’s development was driven by demand from the company’s existing users, as well as healthcare payer partners who identified parental mental health as a key spending category.

The program, which is accessible online or through a mobile app, offers exercises and educational content based around cognitive behavioral therapy, alongside practices to help foster mindfulness and relaxation.

A recent study tagged the total annual societal cost of untreated perinatal mood and anxiety disorders at more than $14 billion. Prevalence of behavioral health conditions is widespread, with between 70 and 80 percent of new mothers experiencing mood swings or negative feelings after child birth.

Livongo’s program consists of activities and tools meant to help both the expectant parent as well as their partner handle the transition into parenthood. Roughly 10 percent of new dads report having postpartum anxiety and rates shoot up if their partner is suffering from depression or other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD).

Cousino said the activities and content were created in collaboration with a panel of clinical experts and advocacy organizations like Postpartum Support International and the American Pregnancy Organization.

Amy Lukowski, a clinical product director at Livongo and a trained psychologistsaid the issue is compounded by the fact that around half of PMAD patients do not seek treatment, mirroring larger trends in behavioral health.

The program is meant to help prepare parents in the months before having a child on through the early childhood period to about when children are three years old.

“We want to be able to provide intervention at each of those stages and reach out to the people who are feeling well and help them develop the practices for resilience needed to remain that way,” Lukowski said.

Users of Livongo’s early parenting behavioral health program are given an initial training and assessment using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to help customize the program for the user.

Lukowski said that the assessment helps take into account certain PMAD risk factors like familial history of behavioral health conditions and special circumstances such as previous miscarriage or the loss of a child.

Part of developing the program, according to Lukowski, was to help broaden the field of “maternal mental health” and increase awareness of PMAD issues past well-known indications like “baby blues” or postpartum depression.

To that end the perinatal mental health program offers personalized content geared towards mothers and fathers, same-sex parents, single parents and parents adopting a child.

Cousino pitched the new tools as part and parcel to the company’s existing programs to address a range of behavioral health conditions.

“This provides the opportunity to seamlessly personalize our programs around perinatal mental health and provide access to tools for managing depression, sleep, anxiety and substance abuse all in one platform,” Cousino said.

He pointed to the sleep problems or insomnia as one potential bridge indication, with more than 60 percent of parents with young children getting no more than three-and-a-quarter hours sleep each night.

“We think it’s a really natural progression and it really serves to advance our priority of whole person health and wellbeing, which was the grounding of the acquisition by Livongo,” Cousino said.

He added that the program is designed to offer an additional branch of support for both the individual parent, as well as the family unit as a whole.

“We know that 50 to 60 percent of people with PMAD are unable or unwilling to seek treatment, our digital solution is not intended to replace clinical support but act as another element of access to resources,” Cousino said.

Picture: kieferpix, Getty Images



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