Mobile phones may help providers reach pregnant, post-partum inner-city women

Smartphones may help providers reach out to pregnant women living in urban areas who struggle financially and often don't get the healthcare they need, according to a new study.

In fact, the Johns Hopkins' research effort terms cellphones as "change agents" for healthcare intervention for women living in inner cities.

The study featured a group of 250 low-income, inner-city pregnant and postpartum women, 18 or older, attending one obstetric or pediatric clinic at Johns Hopkins Medicine's two Baltimore hospitals, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Participants completed a self-administered survey and researchers used multivariate regression analysis to evaluate connections between race and ethnicity and mobile phone and Internet use.

Of the study group, 7 percent had adult diabetes, 11 percent had gestational diabetes and 11 percent had high blood pressure in pregnancy; 56 percent were obese prior to pregnancy. 

"Pregnancy and the year after delivery--when women must see a doctor--give us a window of opportunity to lock in lifelong preventive health behaviors for them and their families," Wendy Bennett, M.D., the study's senior author and an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in an announcement. "But these opportunities are often missed because many women do not return for care or stay engaged with providers. If we could better understand their use of information and communication technology, we could likely design more appropriate, culturally sensitive ways to reach and help them."

Similar pilots, programs and research studies have been taking place in obstetrics and pediatric newborn care, FierceMobileHealthcare has reported. One of the most recent is through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, which is offering users mobile apps that provide fertility insight and pregnancy information. Another study, initiated earlier this year by University of Nebraska Medical Center researchers, focuses on whether text-based technology can help reduce preterm births in rural areas.

The study's authors said the next research step will be designing custom approaches in cellphone and Internet use for female healthcare needs.

"Our study highlights the potential for Internet and communication technology where individuals may have multiple ways of reaching out for health information, rather than through a primary care provider alone," said study co-author Nymisha Chilukuri, a third-year medical student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

For more information:
- here's the announcement
- read the study