HHS to help push 'text4baby' service to 1 million

Mobile health application sends text messages to pregnant women

The Health and Human Services Department is joining a partnership that seeks to expand the text4baby program, which offers free health information and updates to expectant and new mothers via mobile phones, officials have announced.

Text4baby was launched in February by the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, which announced Nov. 9 that it wants to increase enrollment to 1 million women by 2012 with help from sponsor Johnson and Johnson. About 100,000 women have already enrolled in the program.


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HHS is helping to publicize the program through Medicaid and federal health clinics, according to a news release. In addition, the Health Resources and Services Administration is conducting an evaluation of the program's effectiveness, and the Defense Department is considering it for military families.

Text4baby is being examined as a test case for other mobile health applications, said Todd Park, chief technology officer at HHS.

"Through text4baby, we hope to better understand how cell phones can be used to improve public health generally,” Park said.

Women can sign up for the service by texting "BABY" (or "BEBE" for Spanish speakers) to 511411 to get free text messages each week, timed to their due date or their baby's date of birth. The messages include information on immunizations, nutrition, baby care and emergency care. As part of the expansion, new features are being considered that include quizzes and opportunities for user feedback.

CTIA-The Wireless Foundation and numerous mobile phone carriers are also members of the partnership that supports the program.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Mon, Nov 15, 2010

Seems like giving doctors and clinics a book to pass out would be a lot cheaper. Just because it is via a 'kewel' smartphone, do they think expectent mothers will be more easily nagged into doing the right thing? The smart ones are already following a prenatal care schedule. How many of the others will be likely to sign up for somebody else to nag them? The babies most at risk are the ones born to mothers with less-than-complete educations, and/or other life challenges, that make it unlikely they will be regular smart phone users in the first place. I guess this program can't do any harm, but I think it will be mainly preaching to the choir, and a better bang for the buck can be found elsewhere.

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