Despite spending more money for health care than any other country in the world, the U.S. health care system ranks 37th in effectiveness.
One area of particular concern involves prenatal health, an area where nearly 20 percent of women do not receive care during the critical first trimester of pregnancy.
A new study by George Washington University researchers used wireless technology in the form of text messages to improve health outcomes.
The study randomized participants to enroll in text4baby, a free mobile information service that provides pregnant women and moms with babies under age one with customized health and safety information and public health alerts. Researchers found these mothers were “nearly three times more likely to believe that they were prepared to be new mothers compared to those in the no exposure control group.”
“Pregnant women who received text messages on health topics were nearly three times more likely to believe that they were well-prepared to be new mothers compared to women in the control group,” said lead author W. Douglas Evans, Ph.D.
“This first-of-a-kind study suggests that mobile phone technology can be used to motivate pregnant women to establish the habits they need to stay healthy and raise a healthy child.”
All 123 participants in the pilot study were low-income pregnant women receiving care at the Fairfax County, Virginia Health Department and were primarily Spanish-speaking.
Half of the women in the study received text4baby messages and continued their usual care while the control group received their usual care without the text messages.
The study surveyed the women before receiving the text messages and at follow-up (approximately 28 weeks of baby’s gestational age).
Researchers discovered participation in the text4baby program improved the perception among pregnant woman that they were prepared for motherhood.
The goal of the pilot study was to see if text messaging could be used to help the women understand the importance of not smoking, eating a healthy diet and other behaviors that can add up to health long after the baby is born, Evans said.
The customized service seemed to pay off — at least in this pilot study: In addition to being more prepared for the arrival of a new baby, the pregnant women seemed more likely to understand the value of habits such as eating healthy foods or regular visits to a health provider or clinic.
“Results from this evaluation provide further evidence of the value of the text4baby service for pregnant women and mothers with babies under age one,” said Sarah Ingersoll, Director, Text4baby.
“We look forward to reaching more women and increasing their preparedness for motherhood.”
Source: George Washington University