Where did you get the idea for an app? Our non-profit parent organization, Women's Health Foundation (WHF) conducted a study in 2012 which highlighted how adolescent girls know virtually nothing about their pelvic region and the essential functions of this part of their body. The astonishing thing was not the lack of knowledge, but the high number of girls who were already at 14 years of age (on average) experiencing recurring issues such as bladder leaks or chronic constipation or pelvic pain. So the first step was to have the results published in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, October 2015, and then write what has turned out to be a multi-award winning book for 10-14 year old girls and their grown ups entitled, Below Your Belt: How to be Queen of Your Pelvic Region, authored by Missy Lavender and Jeni Donatelli Ihm.
This year WHF created all sorts of educational materials for the book, including mini-chapter booklets, pamphlets (all gender friendly and inclusive), discussion guides, and curricula. Our aha moment came when we were playing Pokemon Go with our own daughters! We were inspired to actually put this information in interactive modules and get it in front of girls and youth by bringing it to them in the medium they most want to access - a mobile app!
We were so excited to team up with Karen Cahn of VProud and the IFundWomen team to raise the necessary funds to create this groundbreaking application.
Which 5 awards did Below Your Belt: How to be Queen of Your Pelvic Region receive?
- INDEPENDENT BOOK PUBLISHERS ASSN (IBPA) - Ben Franklin Award for Editorial and Design, Silver Medalist
- INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER BOOK AWARD (IPPY) - Recognizing Excellence in Independent Publishing - Award for Juvenile-Young Adult Non-Fiction, Gold Medalist
- NAUTILUS BOOK AWARD - Better Books for a Better World - Juvenile-Young Adult Non-Fiction, Gold Medalist
- NEXT GENERATION INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER AWARD - Health and Wellness, Gold Medalist; Children’s Non-Fiction, Finalist
- MOONBEAM CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARD - Books to Inspire Children to "Read Early and Read Often"; Gold Medalist
Who is your competition? While there is puberty health education in most markets across the U.S., young girls tend to learn only the basics about their bodies "below the belt." Missing are important topics such as the importance of good bathroom behaviors, or exercises to help with cramps or constipation, or even a real understanding of the parts and mechanics of all the elements of their pelvic region, including muscles, structures, organs, and systems. The BYB app will be the first of its kind, also the first of its kind to incorporate gender-friendly content for the LGBT community.
When is the BYB app intended to launch? We intend to bring a prototype to girls directly and through educators in the beginning of 2017 and have a minimally viable product in the app marketplace, during the third quarter of the year.
Who is the on the BYB app team? Elizabeth Wood, is the Chief Vision Officer of Below Your Belt L3C and is the lead on the content creation and project management of the app. Missy Lavender, Pelvic Health Champion and CEO Below Your Belt L3C and is a key part of the app development team. We have engaged research and development folks in New York and Madrid who will be helping us bring the technology to life.
What will you do with the funding? We have already begun market testing the concept of the app with girls and their moms in Chicago. With this funding, we will move from concept research to the creation of a minimally viable product of an app that we can launch on a national basis directly to girls. As well, we will test by inserting this app and its unique product offering into existing puberty and early health education programs in Chicago, Seattle, and Iowa to assess the feedback from teachers and students. We hope to have the MVP available by the third quarter of 2017.
What do you hope to accomplish by launching this app? The goal of everything we do is to help women and girls learn about their 'center of all centers', or this place 'below the belt' known as their pelvis. We hope girls learn both what is inside their body, what the supporting cast of characters is, and how it all works, but also that they gain a sense of control over their monthly cycles, their digestive systems, and even learn a few useful tips about bathroom behaviors. We know from research that good habits start early and they begin with knowledge. We want our girls to be strong, powerful, in control and healthy - from the inside out. This is why we are building Below Your Belt mobile app.
What challenges do you face? With every start up, you risk funding challenges - that's why we're here at IFundWomen! Besides that, our biggest challenge is getting girls to want to interact with the BYB app. In our early development stage, we will co-create a prototype with the input of real girls in an effort to learn more from them about areas of interest and usage, which we think will help inform the "what" of the app. As we roll out the MVP, we will look closely at the interaction patterns of all users to judge their interest and experience, and evaluate additional product offerings to be added in the future. As indispensable as we know all this information is to these girls' future health and as much as all the healthcare professionals tell us this app is needed, ultimately we need to draw the girls into the conversation and help them discover the wonder of their bodies. This is the biggest challenge we will face.
How many openings DOES a girl have in her pelvic region? Three! The urethra, vagina, and anus. Boys have two.
How does pelvic health show up in a girl's everyday life, for instance, "bowel health?" She may experience painful and sometimes harmful constipation because she can't leave the classroom to use the bathroom or she may be eating foods devoid of fiber or not drinking enough water. It's embarrassing, and it can be painful. It can also lead to sluggishness, inability to think or focus, hemorrhoids, and eventual harm to pelvic floor muscles from pushing too hard. It's not hard to teach best practices and dealing with real-life obstacles once you get past all the funny words and giggles. Who says talking about poop can't be accessible?
What is Women's Health Foundation? WHF is non profit foundation solely devoted to women’s and girls’ pelvic health research, programs, education, and outreach. Since its founding in 2004, WHF has addressed the needs of women in all ages and stages of life. As Women’s Health Foundation changes its name to To Know Is To Know (late 2016) and refocuses its purpose to serve youths and young persons, the hope to bend the pelvic healthcare cost curve, while giving young girls the tools and education they need to be in the know.
Is my donation tax deductible?: No. Below Your Belt L3C is an Illinois low return LLC. It is a separate for-profit entity, majority owned by Women's Health Foundation (WHF), a Chicago-based 501c3.
When will my reward be sent? As soon as our campaign closes, we will be sending it out post-haste.
Will there be shipping and handling charges attached to rewards? Only if a package needs to travel outside the Continental USA.