Clinton starts global maternal health program via mobile devices

Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action aims to sign up women for health info

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has started its first mobile application development partnership aimed at delivering free health care information and tips to pregnant women and mothers around the world via cell phone.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on May 3 announced the formation of the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), a partnership of USAID with Johnson and Johnson with support from the United Nations Foundation, mHealth Alliance and BabyCenter. Also collaborating in the effort are the State Department and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The first goal is to raise $10 million and to direct services to women in Bangladesh, India and South Africa. The program anticipates expansion beyond those areas.

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With five billion cell phones in operation globally, mobile devices are acknowledged as a primary means of communication in most developing countries. In the MAMA program, cell phones will be used to deliver messages to pregnant women and mothers about pregnancy care, warning signs, family planning and infant care to thousands of registered users.

“We will harness the power of mobile technology to deliver vital health information to mothers across the globe. Women in developing countries, some of the women most at risk for pregnancy-related problems, will be able to use their cell phones to get health information via text messages or voicemails, and the information can even be customized for the stage of pregnancy or the age of their children,” Clinton said in a statement.

The founding partners, USAID and Johnson and Johnson, are responsible for funding and strategic leadership. Supporting partners are to provide expertise, tools, resources and a forum to exchange knowledge and share best practices to support the research.

A similar program, “Text4baby,” which uses cell phones to deliver free health information, tips and reminders to mothers and pregnant women, was introduced by the Health and Human Services Department and industry partners in the United States in 2010. That program seeks to sign up a million users by 2012.

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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