Text4Baby is a new type of mobile health application, but it is also a whole new approach to healthcare, and its public-private partnership model may be uniquely suited to combat and address the rising infant mortality rate in the United States. The Text4Baby program is a free service that sends expectant and new mothers (and fathers) free text messages with personalized health information about the birth and baby’s first year of life. Ever since the 2010 launch of Text4Baby, the app has helped over 800,000 people. User surveys conducted through Text4Baby app by the California Sta te University San Marcos National Latino Research Center (CSUSM) have shown that over half of the respondents reported an annual income of below $16,000. Many Text4Baby participants live in zip codes with the highest levels of poverty compared to the rest of the country, according to the CSUSM study.
Here in the United States we have been experiencing the first rise in infant mortality rates since the 1950s, and in 2015, the infant mortality rate in the United States was about .58%. About half of one percent may not seem like a lot, but when compared to other developed countries the infant mortality rate is extremely high. According to the CIA, the United States is doing worse than 50 other industrialized nations in infant deaths. The United States has an infant mortality rate that doubles the rates of France, Italy, and Spain. Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the United States. Every year more than half of one million babies are born prematurely. Almost 30,000 die before their first birthday. The average deaths per 1,000 live births in the United States was about six in 2015. Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Jersey had the lowest average deaths per 1,000 live birth rates (averaging about four deaths per 1,000 live births). The three states with the highest infant mortality rates are Louisiana (8.4 deaths per 1,000 live births), Alabama (8.7 deaths), and Mississippi (9.3 deaths). Texrt4Baby addresses the leading causes of infant mortality. The most common causes of infant mortality according to the CDC are:
- Birth Defects
- Low Birth Weight
- Maternal Complications
- Sudden Infant Death
The Text4Baby app seeks to educate people about their pregnancy, their health, and the health of their newborn child and helps underserved populations with much-needed information. According to Sarah Colamarino, the Vice President of Corporate Equity Programs and Johnson & Johnson, this program could contribute to reducing infant mortality rates and serve as an example of how private and public sectors can combine forces, working together to solve society’s problems.
Signing up for Text4Baby
If you are a soon-to-be mother or father who wants to sign up with Text4Baby, all you have to do is text “BABY” (or if you prefer Spanish, “BEBE”) to 511411. After you enter your baby’s delivery date, you will receive three messages per week. These messages are tailored to your due date, your baby’s date of birth, and they will be about labor and delivery. After birth, you will receive messages for one year concerning the following topics:
- Car Seat Safety
- Developmental Milestones
- Family Violence
- Injury Prevention
- Mental Health
- Oral Health
- Physical Activity
- Safe Sleep
- Substance Abuse
Text4Baby can also help you keep your schedule together. The appointment reminders part of the app is helpful for this. All you have to do is text them the date and time of your appointment. Text4Baby also helps you stay informed about your options, by giving you access to an array of hotline numbers that provide information about local health care services. Text4Baby has made a lot of impact so far and has the potential to make an enormous public health impact. Text4Baby has partnered with research organizations (CSUSM) and given them their enrollment database for research purposes. The findings show that Text4Baby is helping their users develop skills in the following categories:
- Appointment Compliance
- Knowledge Gap
- Patient-Provider Communication
- Resource Awareness
The survey that was done by CSUSM showed these statistics about the user’s experience:
- 46% reported they called a service’s phone number that they read about in a Text4Baby message.
- 47% reported Text4Baby helped connect them with health services for them and their baby (WIC, Medicaid/Medical, low-cost immunizations).
- 63% reported that text messages sent by Text4Baby helped them remember about an appointment.
- 65% reported talking to their primary health care provider concerning a topic they read on a Text4Baby message.
- 82% of users reported that Text4Baby messages helped them get informed about medical warning signs they did not know about.
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