It’s not just our text messages that are changing lives. In India’s poorest slums, where literacy levels are particularly low, we deliver audio messages that are transforming, and sometimes saving, the lives of mothers and babies.
The mMitra, or “mobile friend,” project started in Dharavi, the biggest slum in the world, home to a million people and the setting for Slumdog Millionaire.
One woman dies every five minutes in India from pregnancy and birth related incidents, and more than 3,500 children under the age of five die each day.
This is why our campaign for Johnson & Johnson delivering emotionally supportive and informative health messages that mothers can understand and act on is crucial.
These women often have better access to mobile phones than clean water. While this is a startling statistic, it opens up the opportunity to deliver vital health information in a simple but life-changing way.
Twice-weekly messages support women through their pregnancy and parenting journey, and are tailored to each stage up to when their child reaches one. Delivered free and direct to mobile phones in their chosen language, they aim to inform and encourage women to look after their own health and that of their babies.
The campaign is underpinned by behaviour change science and informed by learnings from local focus groups. Only by talking to end users can we understand and address specific behaviour change hurdles such as the reason that pregnant women in India don’t like to take iron tablets.
Anaemia is one of the main causes of death in childbirth in India so it was important to understand that the reason pregnant women weren’t taking iron tablets was because of the myth that it would make their babies skin darker. Only by understanding this could we bust that myth.
As a result women on the programme now take their iron tablets. More women now also recognise the danger signs in pregnancy, know when to have their baby vaccinated, use antenatal care and give birth attended by a health professional
One of the women on the programme, Tish Baig, said: “I get mMitra voice calls every Monday and Thursday.
“I know I have to boil water before drinking it, eat green leafy vegetables regularly, and if I have any health problems or feel sick, I go to the doctor immediately. I now know how to take care of myself during pregnancy.”
Another woman Meera took advice from the messages after her mother-in-law put mustard oil on her son’s cord stump, wiping off the oil and cleaning it properly with boiled water so that it healed.
One mother-in-law after hearing about the importance of nutrition in pregnancy through the audio messages, defied cultural norms by hiding food for her pregnant daughter-in-law. This ensured she had enough to eat after the men in the family had their fill of the meals first, as is tradition.
She defied cultural norms and risked the wrath of the men of the family, because the knowledge she gained from the programme empowered her.
- Increased demand at clinics
- Earlier registration during pregnancy
- Increase in family communication