As part of World Prematurity Day, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi will showcase eHealth solutions implemented by the National Department of Health (NDoH) designed to promote and raise awareness about maternal health.

This year, World Prematurity Day, which aims to raise awareness of preterm births, will highlight innovations that show the most promise in transforming the prevention, diagnosis and management of pregnancies and safe deliveries.

Prematurity refers to a broad category of neonates born at less than 37 weeks’ gestation, and preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal mortality and the most common reason for antenatal hospitalisation.

Globally, 15 million babies are born prematurely every year, and this number is increasing. In South Africa, prematurity is one of the three major causes of new-born deaths, according to the NDoH.

To address maternal and infant health, the NDoH has spearheaded the use of innovative solutions such as MomConnect, the first of its kind, mHealth messaging system to support expectant mothers from pregnancy to their baby’s first birthday. The platform sends critical health messages via SMS to registered users, reminds patients about important appointments and check-ups.

Since its launch in 2014, MomConnect has provided an estimated 1.2 million pregnant women with vital healthcare.

In addition, the NDoH will launch an app designed to be used in resource constrained settings to assess the growth of the baby in the mother’s womb. The solution pioneered in SA can detect abnormalities that can lead to stillbirths.

The NDoH will also showcase a spin off from MomConnect, NurseConnect, launched in May this year. NurseConnect aims to involve healthcare workers much more than they have been previously. The platform sends nurses information that is similar to the information that mothers get through MomConnect, but the difference is that the nurses get more technical information that is appropriate to improve their work practices, knowledge and skills.

“Programmes like MomConnect and NurseConnect create vital links between healthcare providers and new and pregnant mothers. These links are the best way to reduce the incidence of premature births, and to reduce both infant and maternal mortality rates,” said Dr Motsoaledi.

“We welcome such innovative solutions that provide expectant mothers from all walks of life with access to the information and services they need to ensure their babies are born healthy and that they remain healthy,” continued Dr Motsoaledi.

Other innovative solutions to be showcased and launched during the event include a mobile Road to Health Booklet app for parents and caregivers to access key information on child care, such as immunisations. The app automatically reminds parents about clinic appointments, and provides them with interactive tools and information to assess their child’s health and development.

The NDoH says it will continue to work in partnership with stakeholders towards improving new-born care and under five child health and nutrition outcomes.

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