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Govt intros m-health offensive

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The health department has trained 10 300 health workers nationally to assist pregnant women to register for the service.
The health department has trained 10 300 health workers nationally to assist pregnant women to register for the service.

The Department of Health has roped in SA's mobile network operators in its bid to get pregnant women on board its new mobile health (m-health) programme.

Health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi yesterday launched MomConnect - an SMS-based service giving pregnant women information and advice on pregnancy, while also acting as a channel to notify the department about poor service at clinics and hospitals.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom have offered a 50% discount on the SMS messages sent to women using the service. Around R60 million has been injected into the programme for the next two years. The DOH says R49 million was funded by the US government, with Johnson&Johnson and ELMA Philanthropies each contributing R5 million.

Speaking at the launch event in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, Motsoaledi said the service will inform women based on their requirements during different stages of pregnancy. "The messages will include advice on the baby, what you must do and what the baby must get."

Healthcare workers would also stay in touch, Motsoaledi said, reminding mothers of newborn babies of appointments for immunisations and check-up dates. He added the DOH trained more than 10 300 health workers nationally to assist pregnant women to register for the service. "In the coming weeks, every health facility in the country will have at least one person who is trained and whose job will be to assist and register pregnant women."

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Government m-health drive

* MomConnect users dial the USSD code *134*550# to either register to receive SMSes or browse pregnancy information.
* The service aims to provide mothers with information for up to a year after the birth of their children.
* The Department of Health aims to reach around 1.2 million women who fall pregnant every year.
* Women will also receive information on treating conditions such as HIV, tuberculosis, hypertension, diabetes and more.

Government aims to gauge the state of its facilities using the new service, according to Motsoaledi, who says users will be allowed to send complaints and compliments. "In a particular period, we will be able to know here in Pretoria that in the past six months most of the bad messages were coming from a particular clinic."

SA's m-health offensive comes in the wake of government's launch of the Global Health Innovation Accelerator, which plans to tap into the world's emerging medical technology solutions. It also joins the GSM Association (GSMA) in its bid to use technology to fulfil some of the United Nation's millennium development goals, including reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

The GSMA recently announced an m-health programme for Sub-Saharan Africa, aiming to provide a range of health services via cellphones as it taps into high device penetration on the continent.

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13 Aug
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