Lorielle James receives a text message on her cell phone that reminds her if anyone in her home smokes, it is important to quit now because of the danger to her baby’s health. This is something Lorielle, a first-time mom, feels strongly about.
“I smoked cigarettes until I found out I was pregnant, and I quit for my child. A text like this could help someone who wants to smoke again think about having that cigarette,” says Lorielle. Today, her three-month-old son, JahTae, is a strong and healthy baby.
Some mothers don’t have access to the health and social support services they need. Text4baby – the first ever free mobile health service in the United States – provides timely and expert health information via SMS text messages to pregnant women and new moms through their baby’s first year. Text4baby messages also connect women to local prenatal and infant care services and resources.
The infant mortality rate in the U.S. is one of the highest in the industrialized world, and for the first time since the 1950s, that rate is on the rise. Each year, more than 500,000 babies are born prematurely and an estimated 28,000 children die before their first birthday—signifying a public health crisis. Prematurity is often cited as being a leading cause of infant mortality. Key predictors of a child’s chances for survival are birth weight and gestational age.
A New Public-Private Partnership Model
The text4baby initiative represents an unprecedented public-private partnership to address the rising U.S. infant mortality rate.
Johnson & Johnson is a founding partner of text4baby along with the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition,Voxiva, CTIA – The Wireless Foundation and Grey Healthcare Group (a WPP company). U.S. government partners include the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services. BabyCenter, LLC, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, served as a development partner.
“Programs like text4baby are critical to providing much-needed information and support to pregnant women and new moms, especially among underserved populations,” says Sarah Colamarino, Vice President, Corporate Equity Programs, Johnson & Johnson. “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.”
The Best Possible Start in Life
“Prenatal care was very important to me. That is how I learned about healthier habits while I was pregnant,” says Lorielle. She received care at the DC Family Health and Birthing Center in Washington, DC, where she took classes and learned crucial information on how to keep herself, and her baby, healthy during pregnancy. Lorielle continues to keep her baby healthy with regular medical checkups. Three times a week, text4baby sends Lorielle text messages with age-appropriate information for her son on topics such as immunization, nutrition, seasonal flu and oral health.
“We believe the power of partnership and community can make an incredible difference in women’s and children’s lives,” says Judy Meehan, Executive Director, National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition. “These simple text messages will empower women with information they need to give their babies the best possible start in life.”
“I wish I could’ve used text4baby while I was pregnant,” says Lorielle. “It is helpful for me as a new mom and I think it would be great for pregnant women, too.” Lorielle plans to continue using the service during JahTae’s first year. “The texts remind you how important it is to think about what is best for your baby.”
Women can sign up for the service by texting BABY to 511411 (or BEBE for Spanish). They will receive text messages, free of charge, that are timed to their due date or baby’s date of birth. Moms like Lorielle who use cell phones as their primary method of staying connected can receive prenatal and infant care information right at their fingertips.
Read more on how text4baby is committed to extending its outreach to one million mothers.