Global WACh

June 11, 2019

Family Planning Decision Support teams publishes findings from Mobile WACh XY and receives funding for new Mobile WACh NEO trial

The Mobile WACh mHealth platform is the foundation of multiple studies under the Family Planning Decision Support Scientific Priority Area.   The system allows for both automated sending of tailored health-related SMS messages and two-way SMS interaction between participants and a health care provider in low- to middle-income countries.

The patient, Gertude, receives automated and personalized messages from a nurse through the Mobile WACh platform regarding her infant’s health. Source: Brenda Daroka (Kenyatta National Hospital), East African Science & Technology Commission Conference presentation

Originally designed to use SMS text messaging as a means to keep expectant mothers informed and involved in the health of themselves and their babies, the platform provides new and innovative opportunities to promote family planning at critical time points.  Family planning allows women to determine whether and when to have children, enhancing their educational and employment prospects.  This, in turn, improves their income levels, family stability, and mental well-being, while contributing to improved health outcomes for themselves and their children.

We’re pleased to share recent achievements contributed by the Mobile WACh platform.

New NIH-funded R01 study to improve neonatal mortality and maternal health outcomes

Mobile WACh NEO (PI: Jennifer Unger, Assistant Professor, Global Health and Obstetrics and Gynecology) is an adaption of the Mobile WACh intervention focused on the period close to delivery when the risk to mothers and infants is highest, bringing a virtual healthcare worker into homes to support preparation for labor, early postpartum, neonatal care, and family planning.  To improve neonatal mortality, it is critical to engage families, especially mothers, in essential newborn practices and appropriate care seeking for neonatal illness as well as to support maternal mental health and self-efficacy.  The study enrolled over 750 women at two health clinics in Kenya and demonstrated a 90% engagement rate from participants.

Since 2015, the project received funding support and recognition from a number of international funders and generated evidence of improved knowledge and behavior among participants. The National Institutes for Health (NIH) recently funded a five-year randomized control trial proposal to generate further evidence of the intervention’s impact on neonatal mortality, newborn care and care-seeking behavior, and maternal mental health outcomes on a larger scale.

Dr. Unger will lead an outstanding study team that includes Global WACh investigators, Drs. Keshet Ronen, Grace John-Stewart, Maneesh Batra, and Barbra Richardson.  International collaborators include Dr. Brian DeRenzi and Drs. John Kinuthia, Dalton Wamalwa, and Manasi Kumar from Kenyatta Medical Research Institute. The study findings can make a significant contribution to the World Health Organization’s Every Newborn Action plan to end preventable neonatal death and stillbirth.

New Mobile WACh XY publications on male partner involvement in contraceptive decision-making

In new publications in the American Journal of Public Health and Reproductive Health, Dr. Elizabeth Harrington (Acting Assistant Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology) and collaborators share findings from the “Mobile phone SMS dialogue with women and their male partners (Mobile WACh XY) and postpartum contraceptive uptake in Kenya: A randomized controlled trial,” which emphasized male partner involvement in postpartum women’s reproductive autonomy.  The results contribute to growing evidence of effective methods to promote voluntary family planning participation and of the use of mHealth technology to deliver sexual and reproductive interventions in LMICs.  Engaging men as supportive partners can lead to improvements in couples’ contraception decision-making and better health outcomes for the entire family.

Promoting family planning, and ensuring access to preferred contraceptive methods for women and couples, is essential to securing the well-being and autonomy of women while supporting the health and development of communities.  Click here to learn more about the Family Planning Decision Support Scientific Priority Area and here for a full list of publications.