Bridging the Opportunity Divide

How Texting Can Improve the Health of Babies Born to Low-Income Mothers

October 17, 2014
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How Texting Can Improve the Health of Babies Born to Low-Income Mothers
Simple technologies can be used to teach children or reach out to low income families with aid. Brad Flickinger/Flickr
Messages with free, personalized health and parenting advice serve as helpful reminders.

Some app designers are now thinking beyond the traditional targets for their products and are focusing on how technology can help the poor instead.

As we’ve pointed out, Significance Labs sponsors three-month fellowship for entrepreneurs and software engineers as develop technology that serves the poor. (Twenty-five million American families live on less than $25,000 a year, yet 80 percent of low-income Americans own some kind of mobile device, according to Significance Labs’s website.)

One tool that reaches low-income Americans is Text4Baby, which can help expectant low-income and teenage mothers give birth to healthy babies, writes Jill Duffy for PC Magazine.

Text4Baby is a free service that sends pregnant women and new moms text-sized bits of wisdom and advice to support their health and parenting skills. The messages, which are available in either Spanish or English, are also tailored according to the zip code of the mother and the due date of the baby or age of the child.

The texts include health notices, such as the importance of cooking meat thoroughly and wearing a seat belt, descriptions of symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored and developmental updates as the baby grows. Texts also inform pregnant women when to schedule their next prenatal appointment and ask about blood tests they took in prior appointments.

These small, regular reminders, such as, “Even if U feel great, a pregnant woman needs checkups with a Dr./midwife (CNM/CM). For help with costs, call 800-311-2229,” can be a powerful tool for women with limited resources and support. Text4Baby messages also include information to help women access the necessary healthcare.

Tamara Grider, the director of marketing and communications for Text4Baby, says that while the service isn’t exclusively for low-income mothers, “We do put effort into [reaching them] and that includes women who are low-income, women who are African-American and Hispanic. We definitely have a target audience because we know where the need is the greatest, for one, and because of the infant mortality rate among ethnic groups.”

The National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition runs Text4Baby and collects no information from users beyond their zip code and the baby’s due date. It’s anonymous and easy to use for anyone with a cell phone — regardless of manufacturer.

Users can benefit from a number of special programs, such as a current promotion that offers free flu shots for all Text4Baby users at RiteAid.

Grider tells Duffy that the reminders help because lower-income people “have a lot to worry about. A lot of our moms who are low income or younger moms, for them it’s kind of like insurance: ‘I don’t know what I don’t know. But if I need to know something, Text4Baby is going to tell me.'”

It all adds up to a tech solution that is GR8 for low-income moms.

MORE: Where Helping the Poor Comes Before Innovating for the Privileged

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