The Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby Text Messaging Service (nationally known as the Wazazi Nipendeni SMS service) has served over 500,000 Tanzanian men and women, since its launch in November 2012. To date, the service has sent more than 40 million text messages with maternal health and early childcare information to registrants from all networks in Tanzania (for free thanks to the participation of all mobile operators).
What mothers say about Wazazi Nipendeni
Possibly, the most powerful endorsement of the program comes from the mothers themselves. One mother, who was pregnant with her third child when she enrolled to receive the text messages, revealed that this was the first time she exclusively breast-fed her baby of nearly five months in age. She said she did not know that all the baby needed was breast milk for the first six months– she had previously given her babies water and porridge at a much earlier stage – until she received the Wazazi Nipendeni messages telling her that breast milk is all the baby needs!
Health workers also have a role in ensuring success
So far, the bulk of the registrants have come in thanks to promotion included in the nationwide Wazazi Nipendeni multi-media campaign. However, there is a major role for the health professionals and community health workers as they are the ones who reinforce the safe motherhood information provided to expectant and new mothers. They also assist their clients by helping them to register to the service so they can receive this important free information.
Training is critical…but costly!
The mHealth Tanzania Public Private Partnership program, with financial support of the US Government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), works with many partners on the ground to provide ‘orientation’ days to community health workers and facility based health professionals. The courses focus on explaining the campaign to nurses and training them in registering pregnant women to the SMS service. Additionally, the attendees can refresh their knowledge on the information topics that are offered to the SMS registrants and may result in questions by these registered pregnant women. Currently, the program and its partners run these courses face to face and encounter the challenge of high costs, which can endanger the desired roll out speed.
Building synergies with Wazazi Nipendeni
We have discussed collaborating with the Wazazi Nipendeni program to adapt some of their orientation material for the ePlatform. We can prepare some short, engaging videos (in Swahili introducing the Wazazi Nipendeni campaign and SMS service to nurses and explaining the benefits which can improve the way health workers work with women who receive the safe motherhood text messages on their phone and consequently demand additional information. Through a series of video presentations, audio files and testimonials as well as through a discussion forum moderated by members of the Tanzania National Nurses Association, we can use the ePlatform to increase awareness and knowledge of the safe motherhood messages. We can provide a space for users to ask questions, share experience and collaboratively find solutions to any obstacles they may face in implementing their part in the ongoing nationwide safe motherhood SMS campaign. The Wazazi Nipendeni multi-media campaign and the incorporated SMS service is a great example of how health partners collaborate to reach a multitude of end users and support health professionals and community health workers alike, while leveraging technology. We are looking forward to adding value to this to take it even further by connecting more of the stakeholders who can be engaged to ensure continued and long term impact of the initiative. The mHealth Tanzania Partnership program, with financial support from the US Government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW)) leverages the expanding private and health sector interest in ‘mobile health’ and related areas of Information Communications and Technology (ICT). The coalition aims to develop and implement long-term sustainable solutions that support public health priorities in Tanzania. For more information: https://www.youtube.com/user/mHealthTzPPP and/or http://goo.gl/Qumkuc