Harnessing Mobile Phone Technology To Improve Maternal and Child Health “Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action” Partnership Established
Today, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced a new partnership, the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), which will harness the power of mobile technology to deliver vital health information to new and expectant mothers.
The partnership leverages the collective resources of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Johnson & Johnson, with support from the United Nations Foundation, mHealth Alliance and BabyCenter LLC. The partnership was developed in collaboration with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of State.
Mobile health messages are able to quickly and easily disseminate information that will inform women of ways to care for themselves during pregnancy, dispel myths and misconceptions, highlight warning signs, connect women with local health services, reinforce breast feeding practices, explain the benefits of family planning, and make new mothers aware of how best to care for their babies.
Over the next three years, the partnership, which is expected to mobilize $10 million, will work across an initial set of three countries — Bangladesh, India, and South Africa — to help coordinate and increase the impact of existing mobile health programs, provide resources and technical assistance to promising new business models, and build the evidence base on the effective application of mobile technology to improve maternal health. Lessons learned from these and other initiatives will be shared globally in a coordinated exchange of information. The partnership will foster collaboration among similar initiatives in other countries to accelerate efforts to reach millions of women with mobile phone access around the world.
“If we are going to improve public health across the developing world, our solutions must be focused on reaching the hard to reach with health information they otherwise would not receive,” said USAID Administrator Raj Shah. “This partnership will harness the power of mobile technology to provide mothers with information about pregnancy, childbirth, and the first year of life, empowering these women to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families.”
“Better health for communities starts with better health for expectant and new moms. This public-private partnership adds another way we are extending our commitment to moms everywhere,” says Bill Weldon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Johnson & Johnson. “It’s part of fulfilling our commitment to the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy to advance the Millennium Development Goals.”
“Instead of imagining a world where the health of mothers benefits from mobile phones, we are answering the call today to make it happen,” said Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation and member of the Partnership Board of the mHealth Alliance. “This new initiative will take the vision that world leaders and the UN Secretary-General announced last year and turn it into action.”
“This is an exciting approach to using technological innovation to address development challenges,” said United States Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra. “The growing global network of mobile health information programs will deepen our understanding of how best to use mobile phones as a tool to improve women’s and children’s health.”
Each institution will play a unique role in this partnership. Founding partners, USAID and Johnson & Johnson, will provide funding and strategic leadership. Supporting partners, including the UN Foundation, mHealth Alliance, and BabyCenter LLC, part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, will provide expertise, tools, resources, and a forum to exchange knowledge and share best practices to support the research and extend the reach of promising initiatives.
The partnership supports President Obama’s Policy Directive on Global Development, his Global Health Initiative and the United Nations Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.
For more information on the partnership please visit www.mobilemamaalliance.org.
Thank you. Thank you very, very much. Thank you. Well, I’m grateful for all of you being here today. Thank you, Don, for that introduction. But this is for me a labor of love to highlight maternal and child health. It’s an issue that is personally a high priority, and it is one to our government and the Obama Administration, and especially to families around the world.
It is exciting to see this partnership come together. I know that Raj Shah, our Administrator of USAID, would have been here but he’s in South Africa with a very important delegation on a number of health-related issues. And I want to recognize the innovative agenda that Raj is leading at USAID, and this morning is another example of that. Along with Don Steinberg, we have Maura O’Neill from USAID and Aneesh Chopra from the White House to reinforce the U.S. Government’s commitment to this issue.
I’d also like to welcome Representatives Betty McCollum and Lynn Woolsey, both of whom are relentless champions for the health of newborns and mothers, and they’ve made safety and survival of women and girls their global health priorities. I’d like both Representative McCollum and Representative Woolsey to stand up because we need our congressional partners. (Applause.)
I also want to thank Bill Weldon, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, for being a strong and committed partner. And I’m so pleased we’re joined by other partners, including Kathy Calvin from the UN Foundation, Tina Sharkey from BabyCenter, and Karl Brown from the mHealth Alliance. I really believe individuals can make a big difference, and that’s why we’re so pleased to have Christy Turlington Burns, who’s an inspiring individual, who is taking action on this issue as well.
Now Sunday is Mother’s Day, in case any of you need reminding. And many of us will find ways to celebrate and thank our mothers, and we’ll be grateful for all of the blessings that we’ve been given. But let’s not forget that becoming a mother can be a dangerous and life threatening undertaking. Every year, nearly 360,000 women worldwide don’t survive childbirth. Four million babies die during childbirth or within a few weeks. Most of these deaths can be prevented.
And there are some encouraging trends. Recent data confirms that the global maternal mortality ratio has declined 34 percent between 1990 and 2008. In Bangladesh, for example, maternal mortality has gone down by 40 percent. In Nepal, where it was the first time, many years ago, that I saw a birthing kit, which some of you know is one of UNICEF’s great contributions, and in Nepal it’s dropped 50 percent. So our investments in family planning and maternal and newborn health have contributed to a decline of at least 30 percent in maternal deaths in 19 countries. And I want to underscore that because all too often people wonder, well, what happens with this money that you spend and that the Congress appropriates to be spent? Well, this is one example of where we can really trace U.S. Government efforts that have made a difference in the lives of women, babies, and children.
So it’s clear that with the right tools, the right partnerships, and the right commitment, we can achieve real results. It’s not only the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do as well. Improving the health and status of women and girls acts as a positive multiplier because when women succeed, they lift themselves, they lift their families and their communities along with them. According to a recent analysis published in The Lancet, half the reduction in child mortality over the past 40 years can be directly attributed to better education for women. If a woman knows better how to care for her child, she will demand more and receive more, enabling her to do so.
So that’s why we’ve put women and children at the heart of our development efforts, including our Global Health Initiative. Through the Global Health Initiative, we’ve set very ambitious new targets for improvement in maternal and child health and access to family planning. We want our efforts to be broad-based, self-sustaining, and country-led. So we’re working to build health systems that give women and children access to an integrated package of essential health services, from prenatal care and skilled birth attendants to reproductive healthcare, immunization services, and the prevention for mother-to-child HIV transmission.
We’re funding scientists to identify what works to improve women and children’s health and to spread those practices. We’re also working together to remove barriers, and there are still so many barriers. There are economic barriers, cultural barriers, social and even legal barriers that keep women from getting access to healthcare. And we’re creating these innovative, cross-cutting solutions that depend upon better coordination on the ground.
We’ve recently launched an initiative to spur innovation, prevention, and treatment for pregnant women and newborns, as well as an alliance to increase access to family planning and reduce maternal and neonatal deaths in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, we started the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, something that I have to confess I wasn’t as focused on until I really began paying attention because cooking a meal for your family is something that people do every single day, mostly women. But the toxic smoke caused by open fires or unventilated cookstoves kills nearly 2 million women and young children every year. So I think we have a lot that we know needs to be done and a lot of opportunities to do it better.
Today, I am pleased to announce another tool in our arsenal, another roster of impressive partners, to create the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, or MAMA. (Laughter.) I love acronyms when they work. (Laughter.) Together with Johnson & Johnson and with the help of the UN Foundation, the mHealth Alliance and BabyCenter, we will harness the power of mobile technology to deliver vital health information to mothers across the globe. Women in developing countries, some of the women most at risk for pregnancy-related problems, will be able to use their cell phones to get health information via text messages or voicemails, and the information can even be customized for the stage of pregnancy or the age of their children. Over the next three years, this $10 million partnership will be piloted in three countries – Bangladesh, South Africa, and India – and if it is successful, as we expect it to be, we will expand it. We have the ability, therefore, to help more women live healthy lives and more babies to get off to a healthy start; and that’s why we have to keep asking ourselves what works and let’s take it to scale, and if it doesn’t work, let’s quit doing it and find something more innovative and effective.
Thanks to the attention of the UN Secretary General and other leaders, we’re finally giving this issue the attention it deserves. And there are so many of you in this room, as I look around, who have been leading voices. You’ve been advocates, policy makers, service providers, leaders in every sector. And I thank you, because it’s going to take all of us. This has to be a team effort, because there is so much to be done and so many positive results that we can achieve together.
So let me now have the great pleasure of welcoming to the podium the CEO of Johnson & Johnson – and I thank him and all of the representatives of J&J for being part of this very exciting program – Bill Weldon. (Applause.)