Our Response to a Recent Study

We were dismayed to learn last week that The Lancet, a prominent British medical journal, published a deeply flawed study of an infant simulator-based program that the authors inaccurately associated with RealityworksRealCare Program. The study had nothing to do with us, our curriculum or our RealCare Baby® infant simulators, nor are its conclusions about us credible.

The study has enormous flaws:

1) Our RealCare curriculum spans 14 hours of teaching time, whereas the curriculum used in The Lancet study, without consulting us, is two hours and 20 minutes. That’s not even a Cliff’s Notes version of ours. The curriculum and the infant simulators are an integrated product, just like a computer and software. The RealCare Program involves multiple learning activities, discussion and prolonged take-home simulator experience. You can’t gut the curriculum the way these authors did and expect good performance, or draw any inferences whatsoever about our program. At its most basic, science is supposed to be about comparing apples to apples.

2) The authors somehow failed to mention a key variable that occurred early in the course of the longitudinal study: In 2004, the Australian government introduced its controversial Maternity Payment Program, or “Baby Bonus,” to increase family size.

The program paid a lump sum of $3000 (eventually rising to $5000) to families earning below $75,000 following the birth of a child. Not surprisingly, overall teen pregnancy rates for women from 15-19 years – the same age as those being followed in The Lancet study – rose significantly after years of decline. Before the Baby Bonus was launched in 2004, birth rates for these women were declining steeply, at an average of 4.5% per year. Following the program’s launch, the birth rate for this age group increased 7.7% in 2005 and 13.5% in 2006. Why would one assume the girls in their study group, whose schools were poorer on average than the control group that did not utilize infant simulators, wouldn’t be incentivized by such a sum?

That, to us, is the proverbial hole big enough to accommodate a Mack Truck. Yet the study never mentions the Baby Bonus program or its potential impact on pregnancy rates. That’s astonishing.

3) Magnifying the effect of the above statement, the study groups were not matched. The group who received the infant simulators came from a significantly poorer socioeconomic group than the control group.

What distresses us most about this study, apart from the obvious flaws, is that it confuses a vital public health issue. Our RealCare Program, now used by two-thirds of U.S. school districts, has been adopted in educational institutions since 1995. In that same time frame, teen pregnancy has also declined. There are doubtless many reasons for this, and we believe one is the marked change in attitude toward teen pregnancy and parenting found in RealCare Program participants.

We encourage you to share your experience with the RealCare Program in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “Our Response to a Recent Study

  1. In 1995 I had a baby think it over from my child education act…I wasn’t considering having a child at that point in my life…to be honest I still don’t have kids at age 37 and have no plans to have any…but I know a few of my classmates were running the risk of being a young single mother and this was only 9th grade…there was one thing I would have changed though and for all I know it has been changed…I would have had the students wear the fake baby bump for the weekend not at school of course
    But the number 1 change I would have used is how you fed, changed, and soothed the baby…back then it was A probe worn on your wrist by a hospital bracelet…you placed the probe in the babies back until it stopped crying great concept…I just wish there was a way to know why the baby was crying…such as if hungry use probe in mouth, if tired lie the baby down on its back no probe but sensors that it was lieing down, rocking motions for soothing baby, and actually changing a diaper…I just thought a probe in the back was strange I have never seen a baby with a hole in its back
    Kudos though on measuring time and actions…one girl it showed had shaken the baby…I hope she learned something or never had kids

  2. My 17 year old daughter has a reality works baby at home right now. It has caused a little sleep deprivation and take the ability to be spontaneous away so I believe the goal of the project has been met. But I think we have also learned a few other things. I have a 5 year old and 4 year old son as well and they both enjoyed helping taking care of the baby. My 4 year old always said he hated babies before this project but now he feels responsible and they both like being depended on.

    The other thing is that we are a white family and my daughter brought home a black baby girl. I thought I was going to need to have a conversation with my boys about how some babies have different color skin but we are all the same on the inside. However, I was pleasantly surprised that they haven’t seemed to notice the skin color. If they did notice they have mentioned it and neither have any of us. I think this experiment will impact my sons in the future because they saw their parents and older sister caring for someone of a different race and we didn’t make a big deal about it. Hopefully, that helps them in their lives to understand that race doesn’t matter.

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