MAMA South Africa
In South Africa, the reach of mobile is prolific. More South Africans use a mobile phone than watch television or listen to the radio, and there are more SIM cards in South Africa than people. At the same time, South Africa’s maternal and infant mortality is unacceptably high. Up to 40% of maternal deaths in South Africa are HIV/AIDS-related. Addressing maternal and child mortality is one of the four priorities of the South African Department of Health.
MAMA South Africa (SA) officially launched in May 2013 and has reached more than 700,000 women and their families with age and stage-based health messages. MAMA SA developed four different mobile channels to reach women in a broad range of income groups through a variety of mobile phone technologies that they are already comfortable with and using. In addition, each channel has a specific role to play in reaching the MAMA objectives of achieving scale, sustainability and impact within the target audience. They include:
- Free SMS program offered through six inner-city clinics in Johannesburg (phased out into MomConnect, see more info below)
- Dynamic community portal at askmama.mobi,
- USSD based, interactive quiz service (phased out into MomConnect, see more info below) and,
- Portal on Mxit, a popular mobile social network.
Through these services, MAMA SA provides information that promotes earlier antenatal care, supports HIV-positive mothers, helps women and caregivers understand how to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies, and encourages healthy household practices during pregnancy and in the baby’s first year of life.
Three organizations — Cell-life, the Praekelt Foundation, and Wits RHI — originally worked together to implement MAMA SA. Together, they have technical and content expertise, access to clinical services, and experience in monitoring, evaluation and research. They bring deep understanding of health and technology, including the use of mobile technology to engage South Africans on critical health issues like HIV and AIDS.
Vodafone, a pan-African mobile telecommunications company with the largest number of cellular network subscribers in South Africa where it operates locally as Vodacom, supports two aspects of MAMA SA. Vodacom hosts the MAMA mobisite on their operator platform, Vodafone Live!, and provides free access to the MAMA content to its more than 25 million customers. Secondly, Vodacom covers the costs for 6,000 women to receive MAMA messages directly to their mobile phones.
Integrating MAMA into the National Health System's Pregnancy Registry, MomConnect
In August 2014, the South African National Department of Health successfully launched a national, inclusive, mobile health service called MomConnect.
MomConnect began as a Praekelt Foundation, UNICEF and Department of Health project in 2012 in Kwazulu-Natal (the province with the highest HIV-prevalence in South Africa), and builds on the success of the MAMA South Africa's partners, the Praekelt Foundation and University of Witwatersrand’s Reproductive Health and HIV Clinic (Wits RHI).
The Praekelt Foundation was able to use the technology developed for MAMA and lessons learned from the project to quickly and effectively launch the project on a national scale. Wits RHI contributed deep experience in the research on and use of mHealth in the South African context, including the use of mobile to engage on critical health issues like prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS.
It is a testament to the work of these partners that the NDoH selected and approached these teams for help in setting up MomConnect. The MAMA partners worked closely with the NDoH’s content experts and BabyCenter to come up with one central set of MCH messaging for South Africa to be used in stage-based messages. The MAMA SA messaging set was compared and merged with the Government messaging set, to create one set which is formally endorsed and signed off by the NDoH.
Through the early registration of pregnant women at health facilities and mobile health text messaging, MomConnect improves healthcare utilization and outcomes during the antenatal and postnatal period for mother and child. The program allows women to engage further with the health system through a set of help desk tools and services.
MAMA is honored and inspired to be involved with the South Africa’s National Department of Health’s ground-breaking work in taking mHealth to unprecedented scale to strengthen health systems and improve maternal and newborn health.
The MAMA program is implemented in South Africa by three organizations: Praekelt Foundation, Cell-life and the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (WRHI). They bring deep experience in health and technology, including the use of mobile to engage South Africans on critical health issues like HIV/AIDS.
For more information about the MAMA South Africa country program, please visit www.askmama.co.za
“I have friends who are pregnant and HIV positive who are not ready to tell people. So I have referred them to this service since it offers this information privately. I got them to register.”
“I am a single mother and a first time mother with nobody to advise me. The information here really helps me since I have nobody to ask.”
“I smile because the information is so relevant! It is like a mirror showing me what my child is doing at that time. I so look forward to them. I wish they came in five times a week instead of just twice.”
“Give baby ONLY breastmilk for the first 6 months (no water!) & his ARV syrup every day - you'll really reduce his chances of getting HIV.