National mHealth service launched in Bangladesh for expecting and new mothers

A national mHealth service in Bangladesh will help mothers better care for themselves and their babies throughout pregnancy and the first year of life, according to a Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) announcement. The service aims to reduce maternal and newborn illnesses and deaths by delivering critical stage-based information via cell phone with plans to reach 2 million people, including pregnant women, new mothers and their families, by 2015.

Both the maternal and child mortality rates are high in Bangladesh. Through MAMA Bangladesh, mothers and their families receive culturally sensitive, stage-based voice messages during pregnancy and through a baby's first year of life. A majority of MAMA Bangladesh subscribers receive the information as entertaining mini-dramas delivered as voice messages. The voice service was created to reach individuals with low levels of literacy.

Aponjon has a long way to go to meet its 2015 goal of reaching 2 million people in Bangladesh. Currently, more than 12,000 mothers, family members, and organizations across the country are registered for the service. However, in a country with more than 98 million mobile phone subscribers, a large portion of which are women, Bangladesh is seen as a ripe target for this low-cost service, which is free for the poorest 20 percent of its subscribers.

MAMA was launched in 2011 by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clintonn as a public-private partnership between USAID, Johnson & Johnson, the United Nations Foundation, mHealth Alliance, and BabyCenter. An initial investment of $10 million was made to create and strengthen programs in Bangladesh, India and South Africa.

As FierceMobileHealthcare reported in November,  the first randomized evaluation of the U.S.-based text4baby mHealth program, a pilot study published in late November found texting to be a "promising program" for new mothers in which "exposure to the text messages was associated with changes in specific beliefs targeted by the messages." Launched in February 2010 by founding partners Johnson & Johnson and CTIA, text4baby is available in all 50 states and in Washington, DC, with more than 300,000 people who have signed-up to receive health updates.

To learn more:
- read the MAMA announcement