In India, close to 150 mothers die every day from pregnancy-related complications, and more than 3,500 children under the age of five die each day. The lack of access to basic health education on preventing diseases, preparing for birth and understanding the complications that could occur during pregnancy and infancy periods are major contributors to these statistics. But there is hope.
Mobile phones are all but ubiquitous in India, growing faster than any other regularly-consumed service, providing an opportunity to deliver vital health information directly to the women who need it most.
Building on successful and growing programs in Bangladesh and South Africa that have reached nearly two million women and families over the past three years, Johnson & Johnson partnered with the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), a public-private partnership with U.S Agency for International Development, United Nations Foundation and BabyCenter™, to launch a mobile health program for low-income Indian women in urban communities in late 2014.
Called mMitra, or “mobile friend,” this program sends pregnant women and new mothers voice calls twice a week that provide preventive care information directly to their mobile phones in their chosen language and preferred time-slot corresponding to the stage of their pregnancy or the developmental stage of their child. The program plans to reach up to one million new and expectant mothers, promoting positive and health behaviors in low-income urban communities across India.
To do this, MAMA is working closely with local implementing partner ARMMAN to design and implement sustainable interventions to reduce maternal, newborn and infant mortality. Babycenter, LLC, a Johnson & Johnson company, provides content expertise, and USAID and UNF bring significant knowledge and resources from programs launched in other countries.
“I get mMitra voice calls every Monday and Thursday,” said Tish Baig, a young woman benefiting from mMitra. “I know I have to boil water before drinking it, eat green leafy vegetables regularly, and if I have any health problems or feel sick, I go to the doctor immediately. I now know how to take care of myself during pregnancy.”
Testimonies like Tish’s reflect the positive impact that mMitra is having. With more than 40,000 women enrolled in the program since its launch in November, and about 10,000 women added monthly, mMitra will expand its services to seven other municipals in the Greater Mumbai region.
“Every mother should have access to high quality health information, and we have the tools at our disposal to make this a reality,” said Alice Lin Fabiano, Director of Corporate Contributions at Johnson & Johnson. “The collective vision of all partners involved is that, by leveraging mobile phones, we can empower millions of Indian women to make healthy decisions and to give their babies the best start to life.”