OnPage ensures viability of University of Ottawa’s Maternal Health Study

University of Ottawa

In the U.S. and Canada, one in 10 children ages 5 to 17 are classified as obese. The implications of obesity are severe and can range from insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, poor emotional health, and diminished social well-being. Additionally, obese children tend to become obese adults, making childhood obesity a public health concern. Given the impact of obesity on our society, many scientists are working to find ways to prevent and manage it.

But, what if there were markers available early on in childhood that could already indicate if a child was heading towards obesity? What if obesity could be determined as early as when the mother was pregnant with the child? That goal is what Dr. Kristi Adamo at the University of Ottawa is attempting to do.

Obesity study starts in pregnancy

The University of Ottawa’s Dr. Kristi Adamo is focused on pediatric obesity and its antecedents laid out in pregnancy. The focus of the study at her lab is early intervention and prevention of the cycle of obesity and metabolic disease. The mother’s placenta is the key organ which Dr. Adamo’s lab investigates as it has been shown that the placenta has many markers which can potentially indicate future obesity.

How much did you say a placenta is worth?

In order to test the placenta of women who participate in Dr. Adamo’s study, researchers in the lab must be alerted as soon as the women go into labor. When the study began several months ago, the lead researcher was assigned a pager so they would receive alerts from the maternity ward when labor began. However, the pager system soon showed itself to be less than ideal.

Unfortunately, the researcher who received the pages from the maternity ward often slept through the alerts. As such, they couldn’t phone and alert their colleagues who also needed to go to the maternity ward to gather the placenta.

Fast, reliable clinical communication was paramount as the placenta needed to be secured within 30 minutes.  If the placenta was not captured in under 30 minutes and put in liquid nitrogen, the placenta’s research value was completely lost.

According to Dr. Adamo’s research coordinator Alysha Harvey, each placenta was worth $8,000 (CN). This metric is validated because the placenta, in addition to being a human organ, is the linchpin for all the prior hours of research and future data points. Without the placenta, all past efforts and future analytics are wasted.

Solution- Replacing Pagers

Although pager use was ingrained in researchers’ workflows, Alysha needed to find an alternative to pager use or Dr. Adamo’s study would be seriously compromised. Alysha had researchers in the lab find an alternative and they soon found that OnPage was perfect for their needs.

These days, the researchers in Dr. Adamo’s lab have the OnPage application installed on their smartphones. When a woman goes into active labor, the students on-call are immediately alerted by the hospital on their smartphone via the OnPage app. According to Alysha:

“OnPage has been incredibly helpful for our study in obtaining placentas which are critical for meeting our study objectives.  Without OnPage we would struggle to meet our study objectives and as a result, we are grateful for discovering it altogether.”

OnPage was rapidly adopted and response to calls from the maternity wards have vastly improved. Now, the alerts from the maternity ward are never missed.  Clarity and promptness of communication have improved thanks to the maternity ward being able to contact researchers directly. Researchers are able to communicate in real time and enhance the quality of collaboration.


With the introduction of OnPage the viability of the placentas and the study is no longer in question. Replacing pagers with OnPage at the University of Ottawa has been the key to ensuring the longevity of the study. Now, Dr Adam and her team can look forward to focusing their energies on improving maternal health and minimizing the risk of childhood obesity.