Half a Million Bangladeshi Moms Now Benefitting from Health Messages to Their Mobile Phones as MAMA Celebrates Significant Milestone

Just 18 months after launching nationwide, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) has reached more than half a million pregnant or new mothers and their families with health information that is helping them care for themselves and their babies.

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'We have long known how to keep a pregnant woman healthy. With the spread of mobile phone technology, even to the poorest communities, we now have the ability to get that information directly into the hands of those who need it most.'- Kirsten Gagnaire

Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) May 25, 2014

Just 18 months after launching nationwide, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) has reached more than 500,000 subscribers in Bangladesh. That’s half a million pregnant or new mothers and their families who now have access to vital health information that is helping them care for themselves and their babies during one of the most critical times in their lives. An event marking the milestone is taking place May 29, 2014 at the Spectra Convention Center in Dhaka at 6:30 p.m.

Approximately 5,200 Bangladeshi women died last year from mostly avoidable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and three out of four women deliver their babies at home. MAMA Bangladesh launched before the broader MAMA program and was the inspiration that sparked the MAMA work on the global level. Read more in our new report, "Lessons Learned on the way to 500,000 Subscribers."

“We have long known how to keep a pregnant woman healthy so she can deliver and raise a healthy, happy baby. With the spread of mobile phone technology, even to the poorest communities, we now have the ability to get that information directly into the hands of the women who need it most,” says Kirsten Gagnaire, Executive Director of MAMA. “On behalf of the entire MAMA family, we want to thank the DNet team and the community of stakeholders they have engaged to make MAMA Bangladesh an international model of success.”

Asha Rani, a mother and subscriber, credits MAMA messages with making all the difference between struggling to care for her first child and a more relaxed and holistic experience with her second: “I didn’t know how to take care of him or what to feed him. [He] got sick frequently and I had to take him to the doctor or hospital all the time. Now everyone in my family takes care of my child by following the messages.”

Aponjon, as it’s known in Bangladesh, delivers messages twice a week in two forms: SMS texts, or voice messages to accommodate varying degrees of literacy. One form of voice message delivers a 60-second “mini-skit” using local actors to play the roles of doctor, pregnant woman, mother and mother-in-law to enact scenarios that are both educational and entertaining. Dialogues range from the doctor explaining the importance of iron-rich food, to reminding the pregnant character that it is time for her medical checkup.

MAMA Bangladesh is largely funded by USAID and also relies on other revenue streams, including corporate partnerships, mobile operator discounts and user fees. The Aponjon service, which costs two taka (approximately 2.5 cents) per message, is implemented by the social enterprise Dnet and strives to provide the messages free to 20 percent of the poorest subscribers.    

“Mobile phones and mobile health initiatives have the potential to be the great equalizer in countries like Bangladesh, where over 80 percent of households have a mobile phone. Dnet and the MAMA partners have done a terrific job of turning an innovative concept into a successful reality. Aponjon is saving lives. USAID is a proud partner in this Alliance, and we look forward to watching Aponjon continue to provide valuable information and services to Bangladeshi families across the country,” says Allyson P. Bear, Health Systems Strengthening Team Leader, USAID.

“A little more than three years ago, we started on an aspirational journey together – to ensure new and expectant mothers in the farthest reaches of the globe could receive accurate health information from a source they could trust. It is thrilling to see how MAMA has expanded the frontiers of mobile innovation to transform women’s lives,” says Alice Fabiano, Director, Johnson & Johnson Worldwide Corporate Contributions, which covers the costs for many of the poorest subscribers.

“Reaching this milestone shows that when Dnet commits, it delivers. I am very pleased with the target reached, however, it is just the beginning. The Dnet team will continue to work hard to develop innovative services for mothers as we learn and grow. On behalf of our dynamic team, I would like to thank all of our partners for their part in making this happen,” says Ananya Raihan, Executive Director of Dnet.

In order to increase its impact in Bangladesh, MAMA is working to deliver messages in regional dialects. It is also exploring the development of higher-end apps for upper-income audiences that would help cross-subsidize the basic service for the poorest mothers in the country.

Mr. A N Shamsuddin Azad Chowdhury, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare says, “Our office has been very closely engaged with the developments of the initiative since the beginning and I have seen how dedicated and passionate the Dnet team has been in implementing this important program. As the official partner, the Ministry is happy to extend all possible support to this initiative. As a close associate of the program, it is my pleasure to congratulate MAMA Bangladesh, the Aponjon team of Dnet and everyone else who has helped to make it a success.”

Worldwide, more than 800 women die of childbirth or pregnancy-related complications every day and 3.1 million newborn deaths occur every year. There are now at least 1 billion women in low- and middle-income countries who own mobile phones. To address this stark reality, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched MAMA on Mother’s Day 2011, an innovative public-private partnership between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Johnson & Johnson, the mHealth Alliance, the United Nations Foundation and BabyCenter.

About MAMA: Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) engages the global community to deliver health messages to more than 1.2 million new and expectant mothers and families worldwide directly to their mobile phones. With an intentional focus on countries where high maternal, newborn child mortality rates intersect with a growing proliferation of mobile phones, MAMA directly supports programs in Bangladesh, South Africa and India. Additionally, we have catalyzed a growing community of over 300 organizations in more than 70 countries who utilize our tools and information. MAMA was launched in 2011 as an innovative public-private partnership between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Johnson & Johnson, the mHealth Alliance, the United Nations Foundation and BabyCenter.