As more households in low-income countries own a mobile phone than have access to electricity or adequate sanitation, health care providers are progressively utilizing mobile health (mHealth) platform approaches to provide guidance and support to patients between clinic visits. Evidence shows mobile short message service (SMS) programs improve HIV and maternal-child health outcomes, but there is less understanding about the types of messages that engage recipients and the mechanisms that lead to changes in health behavior. We are pleased to announce that Drs. Jennifer Unger (Assistant Professor, OB/GYN and Global Health) and Keshet Ronen (Clinical Assistant Professor, Global Health) are the principal investigator and co-investigator, respectively, of a UW Royalty Research Fund award to analyze participant messages, and yield an understanding of how recipients use these systems and how care seeking is impacted by SMS conversations.
Both researchers are involved with studies using “Mobile WACh: Mobile Solutions for Women and Children’s Health,” a unique SMS messaging platform that was developed by UW Departments of OB/GYN, Global Health, Computer Science and Engineering, and Kenyatta National Hospital in 2014. Now deployed in five projects, the platform pushes automated messages containing critical information at crucial times, and allows users to respond and converse with a health professional about their individual needs in maternal and child health care, exclusive breastfeeding, family planning, antiretroviral therapy (ART), pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and early identification of infant illnesses and peripartum depression care. With the funding support, Drs. Unger and Ronen will characterize 32,000 mother-nurse communication and exit interviews from the two largest Mobile WACh studies to understand which messages are most influential on health behavior and who benefits the most from the intervention.
The findings can help inform researchers to develop best practices and scalable mHealth models. Additionally, their efforts will provide a comprehensive SMS message bank that benefits future MCH and HIV programs and research. We look forward to sharing their outcomes!