September 21, 2014

How does mobile innovation support the MDGs?

Written by Kirsten Gagnaire, Executive Director, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action

This blog originally appeared on MAMA’s blog here. Reposted with permission.

2014-09-19_541bd1c9bdad7_10514570_589201871177049_8131165409528929012_n.jpgAs the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly convenes in New York City this week, those of us who are working to solve the world’s most pressing challenges are busy reviewing current results and aligning our strategies for maximum impact. No matter what the focus – energy and climate, HIV and malaria, maternal, newborn and child health – this is a critical time to ensure that we do all that we can to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the end of next year, but also position ourselves for post 2015 to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are still being formulated.

Sometimes it’s difficult to see where one organization like MAMA fits into the larger goal that we’re all working toward: a peaceful and secure world where all men, women and children have what they need to contribute to society and thrive. But like many of the UN’s campaigns and initiatives, MAMA has multiple touch points to the larger work. The following is an overview of how MAMA contributes to the current MDGs:

MDG 1 – Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger: By leveraging mobile, MAMA works to provide women and household decision makers with access to essential nutritional information during the vital 1,000 days window, from the moment a woman knows she is pregnant through her child’s 2nd birthday. MAMA highlights the importance of prenatal supplements and vitamins, micronutrients, exclusive breastfeeding through six months of age, and complementary feeding through two years, to name a few examples. A 19-year old South Africa mother named Cosi recently participated in a MAMA focus group and told us that the messages taught her that eating leafy greens and fruit would help her produce breast milk. Cosi’s clinic worker explained that when Cosi’s baby was very young, she wasn’t producing breast milk, so the messages not only informed her what to do but also encouraged her along the way.

MDG 3 – Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women: The MAMA messages empower women by providing them with access to vital health information, so they can make healthy decisions for themselves and their families. The messages encourage women to advocate for their health in the clinic, home, in their relationships and even in the workplace. On a recent visit to South Africa, a woman told us that the messages changed her partner’s behavior: “My partner doesn’t want to use a condom, but when I received the SMS about using a condom, I showed it to him and we have now started using a condom.”

MDG 4 – Reduce child mortality: MAMA encourages women and care-givers to practice optimal care of newborns and young children, and drives demand for key health interventions and commodities like childhood vaccinations, condoms and implants for family planning and oral rehydration solution to fight diarrhea. Twenty-three year-old Sharmeen Happy from Bangladesh speaks passionately about how the MAMA helped her get her infant the care she needed: “My baby caught pneumonia once but I didn’t know what it was. I was giving Napa (the most used paracetamol tablet/syrup in Bangladesh) to my baby so the fever would go away. Two to three days passed and the fever was still not decreasing. Then I called [the MAMA call center] and consulted about it with a physician. She listened to me carefully and told me to take my baby to a hospital. I did so and my baby recovered within a day after admission.”

MDG 5 – Reduce maternal mortality: MAMA messages drive demand for vital health services throughout the MNCH continuum including post-partum family planning methods, help women identify warning signs, dispel myths and connect pregnant women and new moms with local health services. They blend health with child development information, so mothers are motivated to get the right care at the right time for themselves and their children. Seventy-five percent of women and gatekeeper respondents to phone surveys in Bangladesh last year, reported that they now have the ability to take actions to improve the health of the mother or baby as a result of the MAMA messages.

  • 69% of respondents reported attending at least four antenatal care visits during their pregnancy vs. 32% nationally*
  • 57% of respondents reported giving birth in a facility vs. 29% nationally*
  • 65% of respondents reported attending a postnatal care visit vs. 27% nationally*
  • 82% of respondents reported exclusive breastfeeding vs. 64%, BDHS nationally*

These are all behaviors that we know improve the health of women and their children.

MDG 6 – Combat HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases: MAMA developed a set of messages on prevention-of-mother-to-child-transmission of HIV, and about how to avoid and treat malaria during pregnancy and for babies.

An HIV positive woman named Mandy who I spoke with in South Africa, told us that the MAMA messages helped make her feel comfortable with her status and advised her to follow the prescribed regimen to prevent transmission to her baby. Her son is now HIV-free, which she credits to MAMA and the nurses who encouraged her along the way.

MDG 8 – Develop a global partnership for development: MAMA leverages multi-sector collaborations to deliver vital information at the global and country levels in a scalable, sustainable and impactful manner. Corporate involvement in MAMA’s work provides essential financing, technology, and innovation, while public sector engagement ensures that our work is integrated into existing health systems to amplify impact.

At the global level, MAMA leverages a multi-sectorial partnership with USAID, Johnson & Johnson, the United Nations Foundation and BabyCenter. In South Africa, MAMA’s partnership with mobile communication company Vodacom has proven vital to reaching South Africa women and their families in a scalable and sustainable way.   MAMA Bangladesh has achieved integration with all six mobile network operators in the country and now has 100% market coverage. In addition, local private sector partners Beximco Pharmaceuticals, Lal Teer Seed Limited and Rahimafrooz Superstores bring financial contribution and diverse expertise to the table, as well as promote the service through their various channels.

So, as the United Nations General Assembly meets this week in New York, we will work with our current partners and future collaborators, creating and promoting future solutions that help us all achieve our discreet goals while also contributing to broader development goals and the larger objective: a peaceful world where all men, women and children have what they need to contribute to society and thrive.