My background is in health care policy and I spent many years, in my small way, working to improve health care quality and health care access. Over those years, one of the issues I continued to see was certain cultural populations delaying or avoiding care.

Whether it be fear because of a language barrier, fear of being deported, a fear of medical techniques from our western medicine practices, lack of transportation or the ability to take time off for medical appointments; all played a role in the delay or avoidance of routine or acute health care services for these groups. One of the most concerning areas was pre-natal and post-natal care.

However, last year, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) Coalition enabled and expanded a text-based service called Text4Baby to deliver critical health messages to mothers and expecting mothers in under-served communities. It launched in 2010 as a free service and the goal is to spread awareness, so more mothers can have access to this important information.

In the year ahead, J&J and other amazing partners will expand its focus on the mobile health initiative in countries with high infant mortality rates and high mobile penetration, like Bangladesh, China, India, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa.

All women have to do, to sign up for the service, is text BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to 511411. Then they will receive free SMS text messages each week, timed to their due date or baby’s date of birth.

The goal is that more than 15 million expectant and new mothers around the world will receive mobile phone message on prenatal health, reminders of clinic appointments and calls from health mentors.

Now, if we waited for perfection, we would be waiting a long time. So while some of these populations don’t have cell phones, many of them do. While it would be better for them to be seen in person, many of them don’t. So it is a start, as every little step forward is a critical step for these women and the future they carry. Plus, the goal is also to educate beyond just pre-natal and post-natal care. Positive experiences with various health care systems can expand the comfort and the willingness to seek care under other circumstances as well.

To learn more about the program, and even how you can help, visit their website. But the simplest thing to do is spread the word.

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