High-Tech Help for Infant Health
On February 4, 2010, the White House unveiled its “text4baby” campaign, a free mobile service that sends health-related text messages to mothers of infants and expecting moms-to-be. To sign up for the service, women text “BABY” (or “BEBE” for Spanish) to 511411 and then receive three free SMS text messages each week timed to their due date or baby’s date of birth.
Topics range from vaccinations and well-baby checkup reminders to texts offering nutrition, safe sleep, and baby care information. Text4Baby messages also connect women to local clinics and support services for prenatal and infant care.
“As a parent of two young children … my wife and I wanted to learn as much as possible about pregnancy and the first year of our baby’s life. I’m thrilled that this service provides a convenient way for moms all over the country to learn this information. This is particularly important for moms who may not already have access to health information or care,” writes Aneesh Chopra, federal chief technology officer, on the White House’s official blog.
Text4baby is the result of a collaboration between government agencies, healthcare providers, and cell carriers; nationwide cell providers have waived all texting fees for the text4baby service.
The White House believes text messaging new moms is a key part of reaching its nationwide goal of improved infant health and lower premature birth and infant mortality rates. According to Chopra, more than 90 percent of Americans have a mobile phone, and texting is more prevalent among women of childbearing age and minority populations that face higher infant mortality rates. More than 500,000 babies—one in every eight—are born prematurely each year in the US.
And, in an age of budget cuts and economic uncertainty, the White House also points out that text4baby could save America money on healthcare costs by ensuring moms are connected to health knowledge and services as early as possible. As Chopra points out, catching problems early can help avoid expensive and potentially harmful complications at birth and in the first year of life.
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