Emerging strategies for communicating health information to pregnant women

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The Tanzanian Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby Text Messaging Service was launched in  November 2012 as part of the Wazazi Nipendeni (Parents Love Me) Safe Motherhood multi-media campaign.

With less than half of women in Tanzania visiting a prenatal clinic at least four times during their pregnancy, communicating important healthy pregnancy advice (such as on alcohol use) and early childhood care information can be challenging. With more than 25 million mobile phone subscribers in a population of 44 million, mobile technology has been viewed by the Ministry of Health as an effective tool to communicate critical healthy pregnancy and safe motherhood information to women and families in even the most remote regions.

In the first 15 weeks, the text messaging service received more than 100,000 subscribers, with an average of 7,000 new registrants each week.  To date, the service has sent over 21 million messages to pregnant women, mothers with newborn babies (up to 16 weeks) and supporters of women.

To register, women text the word “mtoto” (child) to the number 15001. Women then receive free messages on a range of safe motherhood health areas, including reminders to attend prenatal care, malaria prevention during pregnancy, nutrition, HIV testing, and individual birth planning. The messages are approved by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and are timed to the specific month or week of pregnancy or age of the baby.

The mHealth Tanzania Partnership is an innovative public-private partnership (PPP) led by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Tanzania. It operates with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as numerous Tanzanian and international public and private sector partners.

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