Educational text messages to help new mothers stay safe

In developing countries all over the world women lack access to basic health information on how to have a safe pregnancy and take care of a healthy baby, resulting in countless - and needless – infant deaths or injuries. MAMA: A system for sending personalized messages to expectant and new mothers in order to provide the necessary information, provides a solution by putting the power of health in every MAMA's hand - saving babies’ lives.

One of the UN Millennium Development Goals is to reduce the under-five child mortality rate by two thirds by 2015. In an unveiling speech for MAMA Alliance made by Hillary Clinton, she notes that every year nearly 360,000 women worldwide fail to survive childbirth, and 4 million babies die during childbirth or the 4 weeks following. Most of these deaths could be prevented if expectant and new mothers received proper information on how to care for themselves and their baby.

The challenge at stake is health, preventing death and improving conditions to increase life quality for newborns and mothers. MAMA, also known as Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, addresses this challenge by using technology mothers' already own - mobile phones - and providing informative text messages that have the power to prevent countless deaths. MAMA is currently providing these vital messages to mothers in low-income families, who live in countries with elevated maternal and infant mortality rates, such as India (which had the highest maternal-related deaths out of any country in 2008), Bangladesh and South Africa. Luckily, these countries have high populations of mobile phone users.

Mobile health has the potential to reach anywhere in the world, including the hardest-to-reach poor mothers. Not only that, but mobile health messages are portable, accessible 24/7, discreet for those who might be afraid to ask, and can be saved or shared. This simple and easy method can provide information, dispel myths, highlight warning signs and connect pregnant women and new moms with local health services. A sample SMS for example: "It's time for the second tetanus toxoid vaccine. Just one more and your baby will be protected against tetanus. Go to your clinic now."

MAMA provides two types of messages: core messages and topic-based messages. The core messages are arranged by "age and stage" to cover weeks 5 to 42 of pregnancy, and the first year of the baby's life. These messages include antental care, nutrition, vaccination, and family planning. The, second type, topic-based messages are more specific and addresses issues like how to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. What's even more amazing about MAMA is that these life-saving messages are provided completely free of charge.

MAMA, which only launched in 2011, is a growing community with 140 organizations in 50 countries that is projected to reach 20 million women. MAMA is a public-private partnership by the U.S. Agency for Maternal Development (USAID) and Johnson & Johnson, with supporting partners BabyCenter, mHealth Alliance and the United Nations Foundation. MAMA is a great example of how mobile health can help improve lives and is a step forward into a healthier, educated and more accessible future.