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Jun 07

MomConnect an SMS service making great inroads

SAMomConnect  is a mobile phone-based messaging service to provide South Africa’s estimated 1.2-million pregnant women with free antenatal health care information.  Maternal and infant mortality is still a huge issue in South Africa. In 2015, 41 out of 1000 children under five died, while 140 out of 100,000 mothers lost their lives. In 2014, the South African government launched MomConnect, designed to improve information to pregnant and new mothers across the country. Registered pregnant women will receive an SMS appropriate to their stage of pregnancy. It also provides and way of encouraging expecting mothers to start ante-natal care, test for conditions such as hypertension, HIV/Aids and diabetes very early in their pregnancy. Once the baby is born, new moms can reply “baby” to any SMS sent from MomConnect for information on how to care for their babies until the age of one year.

3 main objectives of MomConnect

  • To register each pregnancy at a government health facility.
  • To send stage-based, personalised SMSes to each mom in the registry.
  • To allow women to engage with the health system through help desk tools and services.

3 issues they overcame

  • Providing a service to match their infrastructure. Health infrastructure will take time to build, whereas information in the digital age is far easier to arrange.
  • Getting women registered.  It is reported that they are looking at solutions to find ways that make this process easier, with less reliance on constant connectivity such as the use of batched registrations after hours.
  • Get funding from multiple sources and developing a cohesive program. It is owned by the National Department of Health and supported by a range of partners, both funders and technical support including academic institutions and non-governmental organisations, and some for-profit organisations.

 

In addition to the SMS service,  Jembi has been working closely with the South African National Department of Health and mHealth service providers to implement a National Pregnancy Registry (NPR). The NPR is a powerful platform for coalating, exchanging, analyzing and reporting pregnancy data in the public health sector.

As of April 2016, MomConnect has enrolled more than 973 524 women, reached 94% of South Africa’s clinics and trained more than 30,000 health workers.  The main outcome that will matter the most is whether maternal and child mortality comes down. But along the way, a number of other benefits are being seen like the number of women attending antenatal clinics early on in their pregnancy is on the rise.

What is next, the Global Health Council reported in Dec 2015 that MomConnect will be adding messages for health workers and mothers living with HIV. The program is also exploring expanding the child messages to age 5 and adding messages for partners. Aspects of MomConnect have already been replicated in other countries, including Uganda.

This is a great example of a pragmatic approach to achieving the outcomes a country wants.

 

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