Mobile Health Advice for Expectant Mothers in Ethiopia

Despite the importance of adequate care during pregnancy, labor and the first months of the baby, medical know-how among future moms is minimal in Ethiopia. The Dutch Health[e]Foundation and TTC Mobile are targeting 4,000 expectant mothers with text and voice messages with information on maternal and newborn child health. The SMS service will be launched in October 2016.

Health [e] Foundation
The Dutch NGO Health[e]Foundation is committed to establish sustainable methods of training for healthcare workers on patient management and care, including disease prevention. The foundation was set up in 2003 by Fransje van der Waals, professor in Global Health Education of the University of Amsterdam. By offering blended learning programs, Health[e]Foundation aims to give as many healthcare workers as possible access to information and knowledge that is essential for their daily clinical practice. The courses can be done online, as well as offline, facilitating learning even in the most remote areas.

Female and Family[e]Education project in Ethiopia
One of these blended learning programs is the Female and Family[e]Education project in Ethiopia. “Mortality rates of unborn and newborn children are high in Ethiopia,” says Fransje van der Waals. “Adequate care during pregnancy, labor and the first months of the baby are very important for the health of the mother and the newborn. Unfortunately, the medical know-how among future moms in Ethiopia is minimal.” The Female and Family[e]Education project in Ethiopia aims to improve knowledge on maternal and newborn health for healthcare professionals and community members in Ethiopia. This is done through blended e-learning and mhealth interventions, targeting midwives, medical professionals and the community. To implement the training program and to build capacity, Health[e]Foundation will collaborate with the Ethiopian Medical Association, Ethiopian Midwives Association and the Federal Ministry of Health. The project is funded by the Dioraphte Foundation.

Sending texts and voice messages
The supplementary mobile health (mhealth) intervention that is developed together with TTC Mobile will deliver information on maternal and newborn health to community members starting October 2016. The aim of Health[e]Foundation is to reach 4,000 women in Ethiopia. Fransje van der Waals: “Pregnant women receive messages about the importance of prenatal check-ups and a healthy diet, when they can best visit the midwife and with information about the growth of the baby. But they also receive texts with cheerful messages: for example, that the baby will be born soon.”

The text messages do not stop after the child has been born. “After the baby is born, the service continues with advice about breastfeeding, vaccination and anticonception, so that the women do not get pregnant again too soon.”

Setting up the mobile infrastructure and meeting with partners
Josefien de Ridder, project manager at TTC Mobile, traveled to Ethiopia in June to make preparation for the implementation of the mobile service. During the first kick-off workshops of the blended learning program in Addis Ababa and Adama, Josefien presented the mhealth invention that combines SMS and voice messages. During the workshop 50 doctors and 50 midwives also learned about their responsibilities within the project. The doctors and midwives will play an important role in creating awareness about the SMS and voice service.

As a project manager Josefien is also partly responsible for setting up the mobile infrastructure in Ethiopia. Josefien explains: “To be able to run the program successfully we have to connect our interactive mobile platform to the local mobile network operators. In Ethiopia this means only Ethio Telecom, a government-owned provider that has a monopoly over all telecom services in Ethiopia.”

Josefien presenting the mobile service that TTC Mobile will provide for the Female and Family [e] Education project

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