When families find out that they are pregnant, they usually do whatever they can to understand how to provide the ensure the best antenatal development. Some resort to books offering a multitude of advice and regulations, others seek the advice of medical practitioners. Where neither of these resources are readily available people sometimes resort to advice from people in their social network. Such a decision may lead some families to adopting useless and even harmful practices that jeopardize the health of their child.
Since 2011, mothers in Bangladesh have been able to access Aponjon, a mobile health service that offers health advice based on the mother’s stage of pregnancy. Mothers pay 3 cents per text to receive bi-weekly updates after proving a little information on their pregnancy. Their husband or other family member may also receive weekly texts. The content of the text comes in both written and voice recorded messages covering topics from vaccinations to breast-feeding to when to call a pediatrician.
Aponjon is a valuable service for any parent because it increases their capacity to treat their child. Taking into account the stage of the pregnancy, parents can immediately adopt the information they have gained instead of trying to remember everything they learned at one point. By providing conventional medical advise the service is helping in the dissemination of practical knowledge at a small cost to families. An added effect maybe to cast aspersions upon local customs that may be damaging a child’s development. The program appears popular as their website claims that they currently serving “288,138 clients and counting.” Aponjon standouts in its ability to provide such simple yet effective information to such a wide audience.
What the project lacks is a strong monitoring and evaluative component. While I’m sure this has been done, I would like to see the results of an M&E test to see which tips are being adopted and the actual impact on maternal health. The fact that the information is being delivered from a cellphone may lead some users to disregard some of the more demanding medical advice. A study assessing which messages are the most readily adopted and disregarded could provide wonderful justification for the replication of this initiative in other regions of the world. Recently, Aponjon has offered a hotline service for their subscribers to reach a doctor on demand.
Aponjon was developed in a collaboration between the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) and Dnet with support from a number of organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).