SPOTLIGHT: The Power of Mobile Health through MAMA

mama-meIt’s hard to believe that just a little less than a week ago I was in Washington DC as part of the UN Foundation’s Social Good Fellowship [#globalvax] learning about many of the amazing initiatives that the UN Foundation is involved with.  I wanted to share with you one of the organizations that I was introduced to using mobile technology to improve maternal health in developing countries, MAMA.

Something that I often take for granted is my access to healthcare.  Not just access to healthcare but also life changing and lifesaving information.  What may surprise you is that 3 out of 4 people have access to a mobile phone around the globe.  When you take that in contrast to their access to clean water and other basic necessities for life, it’s perplexing and yet when you are able to channel that into something that empowers people, its okay again.  Approximately 1 billion women in low and middle income countries own mobile phones.  Yet everyday there are 1,000 women who do no survive child birth or pregnancy.  2 out of 5 children die during their first month of life.  About 29,000 children under the age of 5 – that is 21 each minute – die every day mainly from preventable causes.

FINAL-MAMA-Postcard-v4I recently highlighted and celebrated Johnson & Johnson’s Text4Baby’s 3rd Birthday on our sister site, Trumpeting Media praising their work to educate and inform new and expectant mothers here in the US.  Kirsten Gagnaire, Global Director of the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) met with the Social Good Fellows to share her work.  Similar to Text4Baby, MAMA uses mobile messaging and voice-mails to send personalized, stage-based (pregnancy to 1 year of age) messages 2-3 times a week .  These are words of encouragement, warning signs to look out for and reminders for basic maternal care which empowers these mothers and their families to make health decisions for themselves and their babies.

While this might sound simple enough, scripting text  and voice messages to be auto sent, it is a very well thought out program that is not just country based but culturally sensitive and based on their local context.  MAMA takes into consideration things like who the primary decision makers are, the literacy of the population they are targeting and cultural traditions that need to be honored.  MAMA‘s first tool, adaptable messages, are now being used in 35 countries with the goal of reaching 20 million moms.

MAMA is a public-private partnership launched in May 2011 by founding partners United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Johnson & Johnson with supporting partners – the United Nations Foundation, mHealth Alliance and BabyCenter.

MAMA started with a three-year, $10 million investment to create and strengthen programs in three countries – Bangladesh, India and South Africa – and to enhance global capability of new and existing mobile health information programs for moms in those countries and beyond.