MomConnect, the eHealth mobile phone application that launched in August to assist pregnant women, has reached 100,000 pregnant women in only two months.
The interactive SMS based application aims to assist government to move more rapidly towards meeting the two Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that relate to child and maternal health respectively.
Every year approximately 1.2 million women fall pregnant in South Africa, so MomConnect was designed to specifically provide them with information through weekly SMSs and to encourage them to attend antenatal care as early as possible, or at least before 20 weeks. MomConnect also enables women to ask questions related to their pregnancy, their health and that of their babies.
The system also allows pregnant women to send compliments and complaints regarding the services that they receive at healthcare facilities to the National Department of Health (NDoH).
According to the NDoH, the number of women being enrolled in the MomConnect programme is increasing at a rate of more than 10,000 per week, and already 69% of the national clinics are already enrolling pregnant women.
To date the NDoH has received 34 complaints and 120 compliments, which according to the NDoH has been passed on through designated district focal persons to facility staff and appropriate action has been taken in the case of each complaint.
More than 8,000 frequently asked questions have been received from pregnant women, mostly relating to bleeding; abdominal pain; vomiting, swollen legs; and headache. All of these questions have received automated responses from the MomConnect system.
The messages are currently available in English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho and Tswana, and according to the NDoH, by early next year the messages will be available in all 11 official languages.
Pregnant women are reported to be overwhelmingly supportive of MomConnect and appreciate receiving information about their pregnancy and care for their new-born child.
“I wish to encourage all pregnant women to enrol on MomConnect to receive valuable messages, it is free. Equally important, pregnant women are encouraged to seek antenatal care before 20 weeks and attend at least four antenatal sessions during their pregnancy”, said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.