13 October 2015

Tanzania Registers One Million Mhealth Service Subscribers

An mHealth service targetted beetering the lives of babies and mothers in Tanzania is celebrating 1 million subscriptions, making it a first in East Africa's mobile text messaging history.

This mobile health service is an innovative Public Private Partnership called Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby SMS Service (HPHB). The service was initiated in 2012 at Tanzania's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Tanzania with financial support of CDC.

According to a release announcing the development, the service recently sent its 55 Millionth free text message with healthcare information for pregnant women, mothers with newborns and male supporters.

The SMS service is a tool driving a campaign that was set up by the mHealth Tanzania Partnership that includes CDC Foundation has proved to be a life-changing facility for women living in extreme poverty with zero access to medical facilities in Tanzania.

The Wazazi Nipendeni (Parents Love Me) campaign is a national Healthy Pregnancy and Safe Motherhood multi-media campaign in Tanzania.

One of the goals of the campaign is to harness mobile phone technology and text messaging to reduce maternal and infant mortality numbers by three-quarters by 2015.

The mHealth Tanzania Partnership is led by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Tanzania and operates with support from the CDC Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as numerous Tanzanian and international public and private sector partners.

CDC Tanzania office through its website explained that the reasons for the high subscription include the factors about the size of the country which is almost 900,000 square kilometers, it's population is approaching 44 million and over 25 million are mobile phone subscribers. CDC says Tanzania registers the highest average number of text messages sent per month per subscriber in East Africa. The use of text messaging doubled over the past few years to almost 5 billion messages in 2012.

As a result, mobile telephone technology is recognized by the Ministry of Health as an effective tool to communicate critical healthy pregnancy and safe motherhood information to women and families in even the most remote regions.

The Wazazi Nipendeni SMS service reached its first 125,000 active registrants in April 2013. At least 5 million text messages were sent to those who signed up for the free healthy pregnancy and safe motherhood information, since the launch in late November 2012. The service continues to add an average of 7,000 registrants weekly.

Currently, the mHealth Tanzania Partnership is working on expansions, such as enabling two-way communication lending an opportunity to ask questions and give feedback.

Dr. Mwendwa E. Mwenesi, mHealth Tanzania Country Coordinator, is quoted as explaining that, "The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is giving a priority to mHealth initiatives and projects, because we have seen what it can do. The text message service Wazazi Nipendeni offers maternal health information and care of newborn. It can be accessed by the pregnant mother and couples through their mobile phone. Now people can have access to health information in the palm of their hands!"

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