Another Africa’s mhealth Success story: Tanzania Healthy Baby Text Messaging Service
Khalifan benefits from the well working integrated partnership model that is at the core of the Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby Text Messaging Service. Thanks to the sharing and pooling of resources, it is well promoted across the nation and offers a large range of maternal health and early childcare topics. “About 3 or 4 messages come to my phone every week. They give me a lot of (maternal health) advice. This is our first pregnancy. It is easy to do something wrong, but these messages inform us how to do it right. Also, I don’t need to pay for the service,” says the enthusiastic user.
To date, this service has sent over 21 million messages to pregnant women, mothers with new-born babies (up to 16 weeks) and supporters of women, like this father to be. Those who are just in need of general healthy pregnancy information can also sign up.
The objective of the service is to offer men and women – located in every corner of the country and from any income level – healthy pregnancy advice and early childhood care information. This information includes time sensitive reminders for such events as antenatal clinic visits and taking of malaria prevention medication. This information is carefully timed and relevant to the specific registrant, like pregnant women or their supporters. The carefully targeted large range of healthy pregnancy topics, from ANC visit reminders to birth planning and ‘fun’ informative information for all these types of audiences, makes this a unique service. However, other important aspects make this service so special.
“The service is truly an example of the perfect implementation of expertise sharing and pooling of resources”, explains Muttah Saulo, mHealth Tanzania Public Private Partnership project manager of the Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby – Text Messaging Service. “It is important to understand that the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) Reproductive Child Health Services (RCHS) section is the overall leader of the service. Together with many technical partners in the maternal health and early childcare fields the RCHS team provided key input to the development of the messaging service and content and will continue to do so when the service expands with information reaching beyond the age of 16 weeks of a baby.”
“The Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby Text Messaging Service was launched in November 2012”, the project manager states proudly, “together with Wazazi Nipendeni (Parents Love Me) Safe Motherhood multi-media campaign. The campaign (funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and US Presidents Malaria Initiative, through the United States Agency for International Development) was implemented by our partner the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Program’s COMMIT and TCCP Projects and is still running. The campaigns’ radio and television spots, billboards and posters include the promotion of the free (reverse-billed) short-code (15001) and the registration keyword ‘mtoto‘(‘baby‘) on all campaign materials. It instructs anyone interested in more information on healthy pregnancy to register and receive the information for free. This collaboration has proven to be critical in building awareness of the messaging service, with registration rates reaching four times their average when there is a full media presence.”
Saulo’s organization, the mHealth Tanzania Partnership, is led by the CDC Foundation and provides the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare with primary technical assistance for the messaging service, including administrative and management support. As an independent not-for-profit organization, the CDC Foundation assists the Partnership with attracting and maintaining partners to support the messaging service. The US Government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded the development of the service and provides financial support for its current operation.
Text to Change (TTC) is another key technical partner for the service and provides critical input for the team on how users can most easily interact with the ‘ping pong’ style of registration utilized by the service and allowing different types of registrants to receive specifically targeted and carefully timed messages. “We designed the platform rules together as partners”, explains Saulo, “Following, TTC configured their platform ‘Vusion’ to accommodate numerous message schedules following well thought out rules. These are based upon the registrants’ category group such as being a pregnant mother or a supporter, in combination with details such as the stage of pregnancy or the age of the baby. This information triggers a schedule with specifically targeted and timed messages. Registrants can also update their subscription. For instance, women normally only know how many ‘months’ along she is in her pregnancy. When she learns how many ‘weeks’ she is pregnant, she can change that information. It allows her to receive even more accurately timed messages, like the exact week she should take her malaria medication.”