Reaching mothers with messages

Of every 100 people living in Bangladesh, just 55 have access to sanitation services, while 64 have mobile phone subscriptions.

A project in Bangladesh has used this as an opportunity to deliver vital health information to about 1.2 million people. MAMA is a public-private partnership that supports programmes to deliver health information through cellphones to mothers and families. So far, its messages have reached nearly 2 million subscribers globally.

This is one of several success stories highlighted in The Guide to Business Engagement, a resource published this month by the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, to help inform the development of local strategies to engage businesses in national nutrition priorities.

The MAMA Bangladesh programme, ‘Aponjon’, is a Voice and SMS based mobile Health Service which provides important twice weekly health messages to pregnant women, new mothers and their family members. The service aims to help the mother and her family members to receive personalised, reliable and accurate messages keeping in alignment with her week of pregnancy or the age of the baby.

After a year of pilot testing, Aponjon was launched nationally in December 2012 by Bangladeshi social enterprise Dnet, in partnership with the Government of Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Expectant and new mothers are the primary subscribers. Aponjon is on track to reach more than 2 million women and families by 2015.

Aponjon’s 2012 Phone Survey found that substantially higher percentages of MAMA subscribers in Bangladesh reported adopting recommended behaviours (antenatal care visits, facility-based births and exclusive breastfeeding) versus national averages in the 2011 Demographic and Health Survey. In addition, nearly three-quarters of both women (72%) and gatekeeper (73%) respondents reported that they had the ability to take action to improve the health of the mother or baby as a result of the MAMA messages. More formal research is underway with results expected mid-2015.

The Guide to Business Engagement is aimed at SUN country stakeholders to help inform the development of local strategies to engage business in national nutrition priorities. The guide draws on a wide range of insights and experiences from SUN member countries to share best practice and to summarise potential opportunities for businesses to support local nutrition priorities and plans.

The SUN Movement supports national leadership and collective action to scale up nutrition. The SUN Business Network is one of the four global networks that support SUN countries (along with UN, Civil Society and Donor Networks). It is convened by GAIN and the UN World Food Programme and further supported by an Advisory Group.

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Published on 26 February 2015