At the State Department this morning, Secretary Clinton announced a new public-private partnership to improve maternal health outcomes by using mobile phone technology. Super model (and film director!) Christy Turlington Burns was also on hand for the new venture, called the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA). The $10 million partnership between USAID, the UN Foundation’s mHealth Alliance, Johnson & Johnson and Baby Center, LLC will seed programs that help expecting mothers in the developing world gain easier access to maternal health information and services.
Mobile health messages are able to quickly and easily disseminate information that will inform women of ways to care for themselves during pregnancy, dispel myths and misconceptions, highlight warning signs, connect women with local health services, reinforce breast feeding practices, explain the benefits of family planning, and make new mothers aware of how best to care for their babies.
Over the next three years, the partnership, which is expected to mobilize $10 million, will work across an initial set of three countries, Bangladesh, India and South Africa, to help coordinate and increase the impact of existing mobile health programs, provide resources and technical assistance to promising new business models, and build the evidence base on the effective application of mobile technology to improve maternal health. Lessons learned from these and other initiatives will be shared globally in a coordinated exchange of information. The partnership will foster collaboration among similar initiatives in other countries to accelerate efforts to reach millions of women with mobile phone access around the world.
According to the World Health Organization, some 1,500 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications everyday. Most of these deaths occurred in developing countries, and most were avoidable. The goal of this new alliance is to harness the near-ubiquitous presence of mobile technology in the developing world to help bring that number down.