The Jakarta Post
Pregnant women and new mothers now have a new way of learning how to ensure they and their babies remain healthy ' through their cell phones.
Jhpiego, with generous support from the GE Foundation, has developed SMSBunda ' a text-messaging service for pregnant women and postnatal mothers. SMSBunda provides women with life-saving information during pregnancy and in the early days after delivery, such as helping women identify the signs that they or their babies may need to visit a health facility.
'SMSBunda helps midwives to encourage mothers to visit health facilities. Our aim is to see all pregnant women deliver their babies at such facilities.' midwife coordinator Safida Irianti said during a promotional event in Pakpak Bharat district, North Sumatra, earlier this month. Approximately 200 pregnant women from the area, together with health workers and government officials, attended the event.
Indonesia Has the Highest Maternal Mortality Rate in the Region
According to the WHO and UNICEF, the rate of maternal and infant mortality in Indonesia is unacceptably high. In fact, Indonesia has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the Asia-Pacific region. An estimated 9,600 women die every year from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. While improvements have been seen in reducing under-5 and infant mortality, the mortality rate among newborn babies has not decreased since 2002.
The majority of both maternal and newborn baby deaths are preventable. However, many women and their families lack the knowledge about what to expect during pregnancy and the postnatal period, including healthcare practices and the danger signs for both moms and babies.
Innovation that Can Make a Difference
During an awareness-raising event in Karawang, West Java, earlier this year, Jhpiego president and CEO Dr. Leslie Mancuso explained the benefits of the service. 'SMSBunda is exactly the type of innovation that can make a difference in a country like Indonesia. By providing women with important information directly via their cell phones, we have a real opportunity to save lives.'
SMSBunda provides an innovative and low-cost solution that reaches expectant and new mothers wherever they are. After sending a simple registration message, the women receive free targeted messages about antenatal and postnatal care tailored to their stage of pregnancy from the first trimester to 42 days after delivery. The content has been developed by clinicians in accordance with the Health Ministry as well as Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) guidelines.
'Reducing maternal and newborn mortality rates are critical MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] for Indonesia. The GE Foundation is pleased to expand our Developing Health Globally program and strong partnership with Jhpiego in Indonesia to help support the country achieve these important goals. With simple interventions and this partnership, we will be in a great position to help Indonesia achieve a sustainable impact,' said David Barash, GE Foundation's executive director, global health and chief medical officer.
Jhpiego is working in collaboration with the Health Ministry's Health Promotion Center (Pusat Promosi Kesehatan), as well as district health offices, to implement the service in pilot districts: namely, Karawang and Cirebon in West Java and Pakpak Bharat in North Sumatra.
SMSBunda is expected to benefit pregnant women and new mothers in other areas by helping to combat high maternal and neonatal mortality rates. At the moment, SMSBunda has reached approximately 2,000 women in the three pilot districts, while more than 30,000 text messages have been delivered to registered women since the service was introduced in April this year.