MOTHER: A Mobile-Based Voice Health Alert Tool to Create Awareness on Young Child Feeding Habits.

Author(s) Suneetha Sapur1, Kathiresan Chinnusamy2, Girija Vadlamudi3
Affiliation(s) 1Nutrition, AkkshayaFoundation Society, Hyderabad, India, 2Indian Development Gateway, Center for Development of Advanced Computing, Hyderabad, India, 3Health, Health Management Reaserch Institute, Hyderabad, India, 4
Country - ies of focus India
Relevant to the conference tracks Advocacy and Communication
Summary Background: Malnutrition in Children is extensively prevalent in India. Poor feeding practices may lead to the burden of malnutrition, infant and child mortality.Objectives: To create awareness and demand generation in the community of government health services for infant and child feeding practices with the help of Information Communication Technology (ICT)Methods: Centre for Development of Advanced Computing and the Ministry of Communications and Information has developed the ‘MOTHER’ tool to capitalize the mobile phone’s core utility of ‘voice calls’ to create health awareness among the illiterate rural community. The project was taken up where the 80% of the population owned mobile phones.
What challenges does your project address and why is it of importance? •Registration and updating of the beneficiary records in the ‘MOTHER’ system directly from remote locations was a big challenge owing to poor internet connectivity. Our field workers started collecting the beneficiary details manually in the prescribed registration forms and in the evening, records were updated online from the Mandal Headquarters.• Voice alerts are being pushed from the system to the beneficiary mobiles and it is unilateral communication (Push Method). Beneficiary can’t call back and interact with the system. To facilitate the beneficiaries queries the phone numbers of health officials of the PHCs have been circulated to the beneficiaries during registration.
•In many families, mobile phones are only with husbands who receive the voice alerts. Most of the husbands are not interested in knowing about the basic support that can be provided to women during pregnancy and child care. They feel that it is the duty of the women. Sensitizing the husbands was one of the major challenges faced by our team. As part of MOTHER project, we organized village level awareness meetings to sensitize the men to listen to the voice alerts and pass the information to their wives.
•Compared to SMS, voice calls are costlier.
How have you addressed these challenges? Do you see a solution? Challenge: Registration and updating of the beneficiary records in the ‘MOTHER’ system directly from remote locations was a big challenge owing to poor internet connectivity. The solution was that our field workers started collecting the beneficiary details manually in the prescribed registration forms and in the evening, records were updated online from the Mandal HeadquartersChallenge: Voice alerts are being pushed from the system to the beneficiary mobiles and it is unilateral communication (Push Method). Beneficiary can’t call back and interact with the system.Solution: To facilitate the beneficiaries queries the phone numbers of health officials of the PHCs have been circulated to the beneficiaries during registrationChallenge: In many families mobile phones are only with husbands who receive the voice alerts. Most of the husbands are not interested in knowing about the basic support that can be provided to women during pregnancy and child care. They feel that it is the duty of the women. Sensitizing the husbands was one of the major challenges faced by our team.
Solution: We organized village level awareness meetings to sensitize the men to listen to the voice alerts and pass the information to their wives.
Challenge: Compared to SMS, voice calls are costlier. Moreover, service providers charge based on call duration and number of calls made per month.
Solution: We designed the voice alerts such a way that each call will be less than one minute and each alert will be sent two times in a day. Only critical alerts (such as expected date of delivery) will be repeated more than 3 times.
How do you know whether you have made a difference? Who were targeted:
• pregnant women, husbands of beneficiaries, fathers of children, health care providers,
Why:
• To create demand for the health services in the community, better utilization of health services by the beneficiaries and timely monitoring by the health officials.
How was this delivered:
• Apart from better infant and child feeding practices as presented in the abstract we observed positive changes after implementations of the project.
• Repeated voice calls sensitized the family members, particularly husbands, to understand the importance of pregnancy and the care to be taken at critical stages. Improved participation of husbands and fathers in health care activities was observed.
Have you or the project mobilized others and if so, who, why and how? The project mobilized community participation and awareness created by the project helped to create demand for health services, especially for immunization as the Mother call voice alert reaches the beneficiary (pregnant women, Mother's of below 18 months) on the days of immunisation schedule as well as nutritional supplementation through the Integrated Child development Surveillance program. Beneficiaries were demanding the village health workers for immunization and the food supplements such as Egg, fruit and calorie and protein mix.It also helped to improve health workers participation as it increased the responsibility of Health workers to follow-up with registered members. The number of visits by health workers to the beneficiary house reduced, in turn helping them to effectively utilize their time in other productive works. As to corruption, beneficiaries were sensitized about the entitlements and monetary benefits from health department along with voice health alerts. The better utilization of health as well as monetary benefits was observed.There was online monitoring of the beneficiaries details by higher government health authorities especially about high risk cases of pregnancy.
When your donor funding runs out how will your idea continue to live? In spite of a few limitations and challenges faced by the Mother tool implementation, the Mother project is a successful program that creates awareness on infant and child feeding habits. The Mother pilot project has been initiated with the goal of being integrated into the national level health services, so the pilot has been implemented by involving State National Rural health Mission and the antenatal and child data collection formats used in mother project were also of National Rural health Mission (NRHM) as these formats are common across the country. The NRHM people were involved at each step of the implementation program which helped the Mother project to be taken up by the state NRHM. The scale up of the Mother project to state level has been assisted by the NRHM officials involved witnessing the effectiveness of this innovative tool to create awareness across community, in particular to rural illiterate women. At the National level NRHM is considering a scale up to entire nation in a phased manner. Considering the level of mobile penetration in India and literacy level among rural women, voice calls (MOTHER) is the best model to reach-out towards the target beneficiaries directly at an affordable cost.  The projected has been scaled up to the state level and National Rural Health Mission is adopting this tool and scaling up to the different states in phases at national level. This project has been awarded "eIndia 2012’ Public Choice Award under Health category.

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