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Updated: April 3, 2012 12:37 IST

Timely reminders

Aarti Dhar
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Illustration for BL
Illustration for BL

Microsoft uses SMS messages to improve maternal and child health in rural UP. Messages are backed by regular medical check-ups

Over a 1,000 pregnant women in the rural areas Uttar Pradesh are using SMS to keep themselves updated on nutritional needs, pre-natal care and regular medical check-ups. Initiated by Microsoft India, the SMS Toolkit Campaign focuses on sending regular messages to pregnant women on nutrition and pre-natal care, and is backed by regular medical check-ups by their local health facilities.

The SMS Toolkit Program for pregnant women project started in April 2010 was started by Datamation Foundation under the aegis of the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Programme with technical support from One World South Asia (OWSA) and ZMQ Technologies. It aims at providing critical Reproductive and Child Health related information services to pregnant and lactating women and their husbands by sending them localised messages in Hindi.

The registration is done manually to mobilise larger people, post which strong community mobilisation is done, linking with existing health workers like ASHA, ANM (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) and Dais. Details (contact information) of the women who register for this campaign manually are recorded on the Content Management System (CMS) and SMS messages are automatically sent out to the registered users at pre-determined periods of time. SMS messages get supplemented with specific medical advice on the pre-natal care or reminders about specific Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) tests that need to be carried out by the pregnant and lactating women.

The registrants receive two messages per week, for the 40 weeks of pregnancy (norms as per government programmes). The messages are sent on nutrition, ante natal check-up, vaccines, and iron folic supplements, alerts to danger signs which may threaten their pregnancy and support in planning a safe delivery.

The duration of the programme is for a year, instead of nine months. The extra three months is included to ensure that the child is in good health post birth. The target audience for this programme includes pregnant and lactating mothers, community health workers, families of the targeted women and health officials as part of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

Health officials and community health officials are targeted because they are the ones who have to ensure that specific medical tests are carried out to give proper pre natal care to these women from time to time. Husbands and families of the pregnant women are targeted to gain their acceptance for the project and support their wives during pregnancy.

So far, the project has been implemented in 15 villages which are some of the most backward of the Katari cluster in the Ghatampur block of Uttar Pradesh's Kanpur Dehat (Rural) District. In the villages of Katri, Katar, Ballaha, Gouraian, Koro, Surajpur, Qyatra Banger, Naya Purwa, Durauli, Garatha, Kishva, Azagarpur, Dubai, and Kishva, Halia, a total number of 1024 women have been impacted till March 2012.

Pooja Sheelu Tiwari from Katar says, “The SMSes were very helpful as it kept us informed of the various precautions to be taken during and after my pregnancy. Since my entire family was made aware of this, I got a lot of support from them.” Sustained and reinforcing messages becomes imperative for women in rural areas, where there is lack of awareness and general apathy towards their health,'' says Manju Dhasmana, Community Affairs Manager, Microsoft India.

As per the programme two messages are sent every week corresponding to their week of pregnancy and the age of their infants, Linkages to health care providers in the villages and to the nearest health facility are ensured as are the beneficiaries linked to the NRHM schemes.

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