Text Messages to Help Russian Mothers and Babies

Washington - Capitalizing on social technology, pregnant women and new mothers in Russia will have a new way to access health care information, thanks to a U.S.-Russia partnership offering free text messages.

Text4baby-Russia, an innovative program modeled after its successful launch as text4baby in the United States, is designed to offer the specific information mothers need to care for their babies as well as their own health through clear and concise text messages sent to their mobile phones.

The Russian nonprofit Health and Development Foundation has announced the partnership to develop text4baby-Russia with platform support from Voxiva, an American leader in mobile health information technology, and medical support from the Kulakov Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology and Perinatology of the Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development ( MOHSD ).

Johnson & Johnson, an American multinational health and pharmaceutical company, and founding sponsor of text4baby in the United States, will also be a founding sponsor in Russia.

The partnership is a tangible example of the increasing collaboration and innovation between the two countries, and marks a significant achievement of the Health Working Group, one of 18 working groups of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission ( BPC ).

The commission was established by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in July 2009 to improve coordination between the two countries, identify areas of cooperation, and pursue joint projects that strengthen the ties between the Russian and American people.

Text4baby-Russia partners announced the project's launch during the visit of Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the U.S. vice president, to Moscow's Kulakov Center on March 10.

"It was heartening to see this example of American partners, private sector and nonprofit, working with Russian colleagues to learn from each other to tackle common problems. We must use every tool we have to keep our mothers and newborns healthy - and this is a promising step," wrote Biden in a White House blog post. "The U.S. and Russian partners have been working together since last year to share technical expertise and best practices in using text messaging programs to improve the health of expecting and new mothers."

The launch for text4baby-Russia is planned for the fall of 2011, reportedly in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

When the program was launched in the United States in 2010, more than 6,500 enrollees signed up in the first 24 hours. In the first year, 135,000 subscribers have received millions of text messages, in either English or Spanish.

More than 300 outreach partners, including national, state, business, academic, nonprofit and other groups, are helping to promote the service.

The service delivers timely health information three times a week during pregnancy and throughout a baby's first year.

In June 2010, a delegation of Russian maternal and child health experts visited the United States and the members were briefed on text4baby by its partners.

During the same visit, the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, an American association of maternal and infant health professionals, agreed to work together with the Russian Health and Development Foundation to create a similar service in Russia, a partnership announced by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the State Department Civil Society 2.0 summit.

A follow-up meeting, hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy with a delegation from the MOHSD during September's meeting of the BPC Health Working Group, led to the collaboration between the partners to establish text4baby-Russia.

"Watching text4baby expand has been like watching a child grow up," said Sarah Colamarino, a vice president with Johnson & Johnson. "I'm proud of the work text4baby is doing to educate expectant mothers around the globe. It is helping to create healthier lives for mothers and children - a mission that inspires me every day."

The United States and Russia have a long history of collaboration in health care.

Improving reproductive, maternal and child health was one of the first areas of collaboration between the Russian MOHSD and USAID/Russia. A series of bilateral exchanges of medical experts and partnerships followed, including the Russian Kulakov Center and two leading medical associations in the United States, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"I was pleased to learn about the important strides being made in maternal and infant health in Russia - and to see the living proof of these efforts on my visit," Biden blogged.

"As a mother and a grandmother, I congratulate all of those working on maternal health issues, and look forward to celebrating the growth of the text4baby program."

( This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov )