Last night a comedy show portrayed a woman in labor, screaming and pushing to humorous effect. Watching this, my daughter’s eyes grew wide and she said, “I’m scared to grow up and do that.” My initial thought was to reassure her that, “There is nothing to worry about.” And while I did work to reassure her in a practical and balanced way, it triggered additional thoughts. The pain of labor is certainly a concern, but more serious worries stem from the potential complications of childbirth. And, unfortunately, where we are born, the information we have, and the care we receive all greatly influence the health and chance of survival for mothers and babies.

Mother Baby Tanzania (c) Photoshare

Tanzania ranks as one of the most dangerous places to give birth and to be born today. Inequity of information and care for those in the most remote areas further exacerbates the potential dangers. So, to provide high-quality care during pregnancy in Tanzania, a multi-media campaign called “Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby” is disseminating information quickly and across great distances. Subscribers receive text messages that support public health objectives to increase prenatal visits, use of health facilities and services, testing for HIV/AIDS, and to decrease rates of deaths to mothers, newborns and young children. In the first eight months of the program’s existence, The Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) ‘Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby’ text messaging service provided support to more than 180,000 Tanzanians.

Particularly in rural areas, where 75% of the population lives, this service helps address the lack of information and knowledge for safe, healthy pregnancies. It encourages women to seek care and treatment that can save lives.

A full case study on the efforts to date covers specific such as:

Lessons Learned
– Language and translation
– Message comprehension
– Intent of messages
– Cultural content
– Pretesting
– Edutainment

Program Considerations
– Message scheduling
– Self-enrollment
– Error messages
– Stage of pregnancy updates
– Opting in and out
– Registration at health facilities

– Service accessibility
– System load
– Meeting the demand at facilities
– Addressing incoming questions
– Sustainability

The case also covers partnerships, the business model, and future needs. The Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) was launched by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Johnson & Johnson with supporting partners, the United Nations Foundation, mHealth Alliance and BabyCenter.

If you have experience with a similar effort, or questions about this one, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Photo Credit: © 2012 FELM/organization, Courtesy of Photoshare


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