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Gauging the Impact of MomConnect on Maternal Health Service Utilisation by Women and Their Infants in Johannesburg, South Africa

by on December 5, 2017

Gauging the Impact of MomConnect on Maternal Health Service Utilisation by Women and Their Infants in Johannesburg, South AfricaSouth Africa faces several systemic access barriers to sustainable and comprehensive maternal and neonatal child health (MNCH) care (National Committee for Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths, 2013). A United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report highlighted these barriers in South Africa, such as insufficient health-care infrastructure, staff, counselling, information, and communication within the health system and between health service providers and patients.

South Africa did not achieve Millennium Development Goals #4 and #5 aiming to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health by 2015. Improved retention in maternal health services is essential to meet these goals. This requires innovative retention solutions, such as increasing patient health knowledge and rights, to improve maternal health and related health systems strengthening indicators within the country.

Globally, health systems are expected to provide high-quality services to diverse populations (rural, peri-urban, and urban). Scalable services that are cost effective, reliable, and sustainable are in great demand.

Recognizing the need and potential for broader mHealth applications, South Africa’s National Department of Health (NDOH) initiated MomConnect, the world’s first nationwide mHealth intervention, in August 2014. The aim was to register all pregnant women into a national system to receive preventative health messages and ultimately improve MNCH services and outcomes.

Our hypothesis was that using MomConnect to send pregnant women bi-weekly, informative, and supportive direct SMS(s) timed to the month of pregnancy is a feasible and cost-effective strategy for increasing maternal health service utilisation by pregnant women and their infants attending public health facilities in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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