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Text Messaging Promotes Healthier Babies

September 4, 2013

Originally published on Oct. 11, 2011

Each year in the U.S., more than 500,000 babies are born prematurely and an estimated 28,000 children die before their first birthday—signifying a public health crisis.

According to the 2007 birth data and ranking by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Georgia ranks 45th in the nation for the number of low birth weight babies born each year.

To help improve birth outcomes in Georgia, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is stepping outside of the box to educate on the importance of healthy babies through a partnership with text4baby — a new, free mobile information service providing timely health information via text messages to pregnant women and new moms, from pregnancy through a baby’s first year.

Women who sign up for the service by texting BABY to 511411 (or BEBE for Spanish) receive three free SMS text messages each week timed to their due date or baby’s date of birth. These messages focus on a variety of topics critical to maternal and child health, including birth defects prevention, immunization, nutrition, seasonal flu, mental health, oral health and safe sleep. Text4baby messages also connect women to prenatal and infant care services and other resources.

“Mobile health services around the world have demonstrated the ability to help change patient behavior and improve health outcomes, and we believe that this program can have a significant impact on maternal and child health in our State,” said Kristal L. Ammons, MPH, Title V Women’s Health Coordinator in the Maternal and Child Health Program of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “We are proud to be a partner of text4baby.”

Research shows that while 90 percent of Americans have a mobile phone fewer have access to the Internet, and texting is more prevalent among women of childbearing age.

“By putting key health information directly into the hands of pregnant women and new moms, text4baby demonstrates the tremendous reach of mobile health technology and the ability of mobile phones to inform and engage people to help them live healthier lives,” said Paul Meyer, chairman and president of Voxiva, the mobile health platform provider. “These same tools can be applied to many of the America’s big health care challenges.”

“We believe programs like text4baby are critical to providing much-needed information and support to pregnant women and new moms, especially among underserved populations,” said Brian D. Perkins, corporate vice president of corporate affairs for Johnson & Johnson, text4baby’s founding sponsor. “We hope this program not only helps reduce infant mortality rates but also serves as an example of how the private and public sectors can work together to solve problems.”

Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA-The Wireless Association, said, “Wireless technology has the unique ability to deliver valuable, life-enhancing information anywhere, anytime. We’re pleased to be part of this innovative partnership, which promotes the birth of healthy babies, particularly those in underserved populations.”

The text4baby wireless carriers are voluntarily providing the critical communications link of the initiative, distributing text messages to recipients at no charge. Participating carriers include: Alltel, AT&T, Cellular South, Cellcom, Centennial Cellular, Cincinnati Bell, Metro PCS, N-Telos, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon and Virgin Mobile.

“Fifty percent of people with chronic health problems in the U.S. have Internet access, but 90% of Americans have mobile phones," said Lynn O'Connor Vos, CEO of Grey Healthcare Group. “That alone tells us the potential of mobile technology to reach more people with vital information to improve health outcomes."

Text4baby is made possible through an unprecedented public-private partnership which includes the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense Military Health System, Voxiva, CTIA-The Wireless Foundation, Grey Healthcare Group (a WPP company) and founding corporate sponsor Johnson & Johnson. Premier sponsors include WellPoint, Pfizer and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and wireless carriers are distributing text messages at no charge to recipients. Implementation partners include BabyCenter, Danya International, Syniverse Technologies, Keynote Systems and The George Washington University. MTV Networks is a media sponsor.