White House kicks off national text campaign for prenatal care

Mobile phones are showing their reach with the text-for-charity efforts that have raised millions of dollars, $10 at a time, for Haiti earthquake relief. Now, the Obama administration and some health insurance, pharmaceutical and technology companies are trying to harness the power of text messaging to aid in prenatal care.

In what's being called the first free, wide-scale mobile health service to take advantage of the fact that 90 percent of Americans have mobile phones, pregnant women will be able to text "BABY" to 511411 to sign up for three text reminders a week on prenatal care and other health issues important to expectant mothers. The program, called text4baby, times messages to the mother's due date, and offers service in Spanish by texting "BEBE" to the same number.

"We know that mobile phones hold tremendous potential to inform and empower individuals," federal CTO Aneesh Chopra said at the Health IT Summit for Government Leaders in Washington last week. "Text4baby represents an extraordinary opportunity to expand the way we use our phones, to demonstrate the potential of mobile health technology, and make a real difference for moms and babies across the country."

Wireless carriers, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Virgin Mobile and some regional companies, are waiving messaging fees for text4baby.

To learn more:

- read this Associated Press story via the Arizona Republic

- see this press release from the White House (.pdf)

- visit the text4baby website

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