As I reflect on my time with MAMA and all that we’ve accomplished, I am filled with so many conflicting feelings and thoughts. The Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action – or MAMA – was created because we felt certain that there was an opportunity to reach pregnant women with health information via mobile phones, but we weren’t sure exactly how to do it or if we’d see the kind of behavior change we knew was necessary to change health outcomes.
Some of what we did, I had envisioned and never doubted our ability to accomplish the original goals. But much that MAMA accomplished was beyond even my expectations: Never did I expect to meet so many amazing, deeply committed people, from moms I visited all over the world to country teams to my amazing staff. Never did I expect that women would feel so deeply connected to this work and that it would empower them in so many ways. Never did I expect that this small but amazing team would be able to facilitate layers of partnerships globally to make a deep and lasting impact in the digital health world and in the lives of millions of mothers. As I look back at the past four years, I am filled with awe, pride, sadness, and hope. I know this work matters and I hope the greater community, and donors in particular, will learn from what did and did not work for us and apply these lessons to continued social change.
Now, as we take the last steps to shut down the global coordinating function and turn everything over to our in-country partners, we have helped millions of women and families have healthier pregnancies and children, contributed to a global body of research around maternal, newborn, and child health, and worked with partners large and small to create digital health programs that work.
MAMA was launched in 2011 as a three-year, public-private partnership between USAID, Johnson & Johnson, the United Nations Foundation, and BabyCenter with the goal of catalyzing a global community to deliver vital health information to new and expectant mothers and their families through mobile phones. With health content provided by BabyCenter and verified by an external medical advisory board, MAMA and its partners created a core set of messages that are timed and targeted to where the woman is in her pregnancy or her baby is in his or her development, through three years old. Delivered directly to the woman’s phone, MAMA has enabled millions of women to get the information they need exactly when they need it – right in the palm of their hands.
Over the course of our four and a half years, we exceeded our goals, having successfully reached more than 7.5 million women and families through three country programs, a vibrant community of organizations around the world, and a dynamic partnership with Facebook’s Free Basics platform.
Two MAMA country programs – in Bangladesh and South Africa – were significant contributors to successful efforts to scale nationally:
- In Bangladesh, the MAMA program, known locally as Aponjon and led by Dnet, had reached nearly 1.5 million women throughout every district in the country by the end of 2015.
- In South Africa, Praekelt Foundationand Wits Reproductive Health & HIV Institute successfully launched the MAMA program in 2013, which, along with other global mHealth efforts, informed the launch the South African Department of Health’s MomConnect program in August 2014.
Both of these programs continue to work with the government to improve the quality of maternal and newborn services through this program.
As of December 2015, two other countries – India and Nigeria – were in the process of strengthening and launching their programs:
- In India, ARMMANleads the effort in slums in and around Mumbai, and had already reached close to 200,000 women less than a year after its launch.
- In Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH),Pathfinder International and Praekelt Foundation are working in partnership and plan to launch Hello Mama in 2016.
Beyond the impressive number of people reached and two nationally-scaled country programs, results show improved health behaviors from MAMA country program subscribers. These include higher rates of exclusive breastfeeding, delivery in clinics or with a skilled birth attendants, adherence to recommended pre- and post-natal care visits, and recommended vaccinations for mother and child – all behaviors that are known to improve health and save lives of vulnerable mothers and children.
All of these country programs are continuing with a variety of partners and donors to provide many more women and their families with vital health information and are part of MAMA’s legacy.
The impact and visibility of MAMA’s work has contributed to a shift in the field with governments increasingly integrating digital health into their work and local partners building their own capacity to lead implementation. This is part of the MAMA partnership’s legacy, of which the entire team is proud to have been part of, and is one of the reasons why we have decided to shut the doors on the global coordinating body of MAMA.
We’ll keep our website up for a couple of months, but after that, all of our resources will continue to be available through K4Health and BabyCenter:
- All of MAMA’s research and M&E tools will be located at: https://www.mhealthevidence.org/.
- All of MAMA’s other tools and resources will be located at: http://www.mhealthknowledge.org.
- The MAMA adaptable messages will be available through BabyCenter customer service, located at babycenter.com/help-contactus.
And while the MAMA team won’t be here to answer your questions, we will all be watching the inevitable progress of the many digital health programs that we’ve helped grow.
It’s an incredible time for the “digital for development” movement. On behalf of everyone on the MAMA team and our partners across the globe, I say thank you for all that you’ve contributed to our work and the movement as a whole, and I deeply believe, as one of our stakeholders recently told us, that this small but mighty team truly did “make a dent in the universe.”