Technology is no silver bullet but there are some things it does very well. For example, person-to-person contact is sometimes essential but database/broadcast/cellular technologies do the job if you need to reach a broad audience with minimally customized information. Text4baby demonstrates that power.
What is it?
1. It is practical education/motivation.
Text4baby is a free health education program of the non-profit national Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition(HMHB). The service uses an easy and popular communication channel — the mobile phone — to reinforce key messages that pregnant women and mothers with babies under the age of one need.
This is an elegantly simple idea. Instead of hoping that each mother-to-be searches out and remembers this information, it is “pushed” to her in appropriately timed bits. Women who sign up for the service receive three free SMS text messages each week, timed to their due date or baby’s date of birth. (Baby on the right is shocked, shocked to learn it is almost time for her next doctor visit!)
The text4baby website also has a great list of hotlines for all sorts of issues mothers may face.
2. It is FREE.
It really is. No teaser service with the goodies only available in the pricey upgrade. Any woman with text service and a cell phone can sign up by texting the word BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to 511411. This makes it accessible to a large share of low-income mothers.
3. It is a great example of public/private partnering creating a public good.
The Founding Sponsor is Johnson & Johnson. Founding partners include Voxiva, The Wireless Foundation, and Grey Healthcare Group. The Department of Health and Human Services as well as many state agencies have fully embraced this effort and are doing much to try to make sure that as many mothers as possible become aware and sign up.
4. It is effective at:
- Increasing users’ health knowledge
- Facilitating interaction with health providers
- Improving adherence to appointments and immunizations
- Increasing a mother’s feeling of preparedness
- Strengthening access to health services.
5. Information yes, but “wisdom”??
If this question is going through your mind, you are right in noting that text4baby provides information only. It is up to the recipient to turn it into knowledge and then wisdom. But the way that text4baby delivers the information makes it very plausible that that can happen.
The information is given in short timely bits. Unlike reading a pregnancy book or hearing a lecture, the woman does not need to remember a lot of information at a time and does not need to make judgments about what to apply and when. This relevance and focus makes the information more actionable — and everyone knows that if you act on information, you are likely to turn it into knowledge (retained and available for recall).
The information is leads the mother through a sustained process with a positive outcome. If a single mother has a positive experience with the text4baby prompts through her pregnancy and early motherhood, it is likely to create self-confidence about learning and doing other new things. Experiencing the power of accessing information, adherence to healthy habits and conscious parenting seem like very promising steps toward wisdom!