Kimberly Seals Allers


I’m all for getting information out to expecting moms by any means necessary–especially when it’s new ways to reach African American women with the information they need to have healthy pregnancies. That’s why I was really excited to hear about the new Text4Baby service.

At first, I thought, why didn’t they have this when I was pregnant? But enough of my envy. It’s great to have timely information, practical tips and friendly reminders on your mobile phone. We’re always attached to them anyway. Heck, we’ve invented a whole new texting language that leaves many of us pausing and stumped when we have to fully type out an actual word for a work-related email.

What’s even more remarkable about this project is that it represents an unprecedented coming together of the government and the private sector (pause for shocking gasps!) using new technology (double gasps!) to actually help improve maternal health among underserved women (you know what to do now).

But it’s true. Text4Baby is the first ever free mobile health service in the United States, and it sends free text messages to pregnant women and new moms through their first year. It also really shows the power of mobile phones and other technology to get powerful information to people who need it most. Not everyone has a home computer, but nearly everyone these days has a mobile phone.

All you have to do is text BABY to 511411 (or BEBE for Spanish) to get three free text messages each week just right for your due date or your baby’s age. These messages focus on a variety of topics related to maternal and child health, including birth defects prevention, immunization, nutrition, seasonal flu, mental health, oral health and safe sleep. Text4baby messages also connect women to prenatal and infant care services and other resources, if you need them.

Please tell everyone you know. Underserved, overserved, supersized or emphasized. This service is great for all moms!

And holds great promise of things to come. " Text4Baby demonstrates the ability of mobile phones to inform and engage people to help them live healthier lives. These same tools can be applied to many of America’s big health care challenges, " said Paul Meyer, chairman and president of Voxiva, the mobile health platform provider for the service.

Here’s hoping.

To make this amazing resource happen The National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (I’m a big fan of their work) collaborated with White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense Military Health System. Johnson and Johnson is a major sponsor as is Johnson Baby. Then the wireless carriers joined the party and voluntarily agreed to distribute the text messages for free. (Participating carriers include: Alltel, Assurance Wireless, ATandT, Boost Mobile, Cellular South, Cellcom, Centennial Cellular, Cincinnati Bell, Metro PCS, N-Telos, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless and Virgin Mobile USA–if you’re carrier isn’t on this list, switch now. It’s a bad message (not text) to moms, if they didn’t jump on this boat! )

There’s a critical mission to be taken on to improve maternal health in this country. Infant mortality rates in the U.S. are embarrassing at best and abysmal in the African American community. And if a mobile phone, fax, wooden spoon or pot and pan can help. Then I’m all in.

ConTEXTually yours,