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White House Announces Mobile Advice for Parents-to-Be

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, February 4 2010

Text BABY (English) or BEBE (Spanish) to 511411 and, under a project just announced by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (pdf), parents-to-be will get expert pregnancy and child-care advice from health authorities. Text4Baby is a program organized by the National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition, a group that includes not only the White House OSTP but dozens of local, state, and federal agencies; mobile phone carriers; universities; health-industry companies; and others:

“Text4baby is the first free mobile health service to be taken to scale in the United States,” said Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer for the U.S. Government. “We know that mobile phones hold tremendous potential to inform and empower individuals,” said Chopra. “Text4baby represents an extraordinary opportunity to expand the way we use our phones, to demonstrate the potential of mobile health technology, and make a real difference for moms and babies across the country.”

Chopra may well be right that this is the first time cell phones have been used in a big, big way in the U.S. to distributed health information. In some ways, though, we're playing catch-up; the rest of the world has been busy innovating in this space. For example, in South Africa, Project Masiluleke has been for years using cell phones to ping people with information on tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. A clever part of the Text4Baby approach is that people who sign up for the program will get customized health guidance specifically pegged to their baby's due date, pushed right to their pockets. New parents will continue to get the text messages for a year after the baby's birth.

After that, the kid's expected to get her own cell phone.