The project focuses on delivering accurate and motivational health information to pregnant women living in the poorest slums in India. The audio messages we created for this multi-agency campaign have so far resulted in more women:
- Registering their pregnancies with a doctor
- Going to their doctor with bleeding symptoms
- Having their baby delivered in hospital
- Having their baby vaccinated
- Giving their baby extra food at six months
The messages are designed to not only give vital health information in an easily understandable way, but also to be emotionally supportive. The literacy levels of the women we are targeting are low and they often have better access to mobile phones than clean water. While this is startling it means we can deliver audio messages that they can access on their phones.
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.
Anaemia is one of the main causes of death in childbirth in India so it was important to understand that pregnant women avoided taking iron tablets was because they believed it would discolour their babies’ skin. We could only address this myth by knowing it existed in the first place.
As a result of messages assuring women that iron tablets don’t affect their baby’s skin, more now take their 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.