The CDC Foundation is involved with over 250 programs in the US and around the world. One of these is the mHealth Text Messaging Campaign in Tanzania called Wazazi Nipendeni, which means Parents Love Me. The program includes free SMS for pregnant women, new mothers, fathers, supporters, and those seeking information.
- Texts range from public health messages concerning safe, healthy pregnancies and newborn care to appointment reminders. Information regarding HIV/AIDS transmission, family planning and birth plans, nutrition, malaria prevention, and more are included.
- Texts are timed throughout the pregnancy and postnatal period so as to be most effective.
- More than half Tanzania’s population of 44 million have mobile phones and the country is geographically large (over 900,000 km²), so texts are an effective way to reach much of the population.
- The program began at the end of 2012. By the end of 2013, there were 125,000 active users. It’s estimated 7000 more sign up each week and more than 5 million texts have been sent.
- One of the program goals was to reduce maternal and infant mortality by 3/4 by 2015, however I wasn’t able to find out if this was accomplished, or what the status of the campaign is.
- Learn more in the CDC Foundation’s blog post on the campaign.
This campaign is a great example of how mobile communications can be used in international health to reach people when it would otherwise be very expensive to disseminate the information. Areas where there are high rates of cell phone use, especially those with large geographic areas, are perfect candidates for this type of campaign.
One way to augment an SMS-based campaign, is to include radio features. A recent study in Malawi, “The effect of mass media campaign on Men’s participation in maternal health: a cross-sectional study in Malawi,” showed positive results in increasing the number of men engaging in maternal, prenatal, and postnatal care after exposure to a maternal health radio program. Combining SMS and radio would be a good way to ensure widespread access.
What I find personally most compelling is that the Wazazi Nipendeni campaign is able to provide timed information to women that is relevant to what they are experiencing right now, or will shortly be experiencing. I think making the texts relevant in this manner is the best way to increase retention and ensure compliance. Ideally we could all take this lesson away from the case study and apply it to any future mobile campaigns we may conduct.
(image by Niall Crotty, courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com)