In this time of fiscal challenge, programs for women, infants and families are susceptible to the budget knife if they cannot prove their viability, sustainability and relevance to health care needs.
TEXT4BABY, the program founded by The National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coaltion has catapulted to impressive levels of recognition and adoption based on a simple concept: free text health messaging to pregnant and new moms. Supported by a robust and committed group of public/private partners, the program also demonstrates how to survive in a fiscally austere climate: build relationships, be persistent when you know you are filling a critical void and build value for the consumer.
With an embarrassingly high infant mortality rate among industrialized nations, the U.S. has some catching up to do in the area of maternal health. There are many organizations fighting hard to turn this tide. But by educating moms as they go through this critical reproductive cycle - which encompasses pre and post natal care - the program appears to have found a significant and cost effective way to increase voluntary engagement in pre and postnatal health care.
The program has captured the attention of the White House Office of Science and Technology, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton--who proposed it as part of an international initiative to increase access to health care for mothers--and President Obama, who has commented on the possibility of health messaging technology to raise awareness of other important issues.
The messages include many aspects of new motherhood, parenting and infant health, as well as mental health messaging. By including attention to mood changes during pregnancy and postpartum this program helps to "normalize" the possibility of a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder in a context that does not add further stigma. It's simply one potential outcome of pregnancy to be aware of and for which there is treatment and help. Raising awareness through this engaging communication paves the way for more dialogue with health care providers should symptoms appear.