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SMS service helps nurses help mothers

The NurseConnect text message service can help health workers take better care of mothers.

hiv phoneLaunched in May, NurseConnect the text message service for nurses who take care of pregnant mothers is hoped to engage health workers and improve the country’s dismal maternal mortality rates, according to Department of Health officials speaking at the eHealthALIVE2016 conference taking place in Sandton this week.

The project, which was piloted from January to March this year, is part of the bigger MomConnect service to which close to a million [about 900 000] expectant mothers subscribe for weekly informative text messages geared towards their stage of pregnancy.

Since it’s launch in August 2014 MomConnect’s helpdesk has been increasingly busy receiving roughly 1000 questions from mothers each day, according to Jane Sebidi who overseas all queries, compliments and complaints.

Nurses need support

While NurseConnect also “delivers free maternal and child health messaging” the information is more detailed, technical and sophisticated than those sent to mothers, said technical advisor to the department Peter Barron.

At eHealthAlive, where the ways information technology can benefit health in Southern Africa were discussed, Barron said that after the success of MomConnect “we thought nurses needed to be supported too”.

In four months about 8000 nurses have subscribed to the service – which he explained allows nurses to send feedback and queries directly to the central help desk.

“Research has shown that some nurses feel unsupported and unrecognised in the workplace, but this service enables them to ask questions and set up learning and support networks,” explained Barron.

High rates of maternal death

Also speaking at the conference the Medical Research Council’s Zoleka Ngcete said that although maternal death rates have declined over the past few years “we don’t compare well with other economically-similar countries and … it’s widely accepted that we are nowhere close to where we need to be”.

Maternal mortality rates have almost halved from their peak of 302 deaths per 100 000 live births in 2009 to 155 in 2013, but Ngcete said maternal and child health remains one of the sector’s biggest challenges.

By “supporting and empowering nurses to do their jobs around maternal and child health” Barron said NurseConnect is one strategy the department is using to overcome these challenges and reach the related targets for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Jannie Hugo, from the University of Pretoria’s Family Medicine Department, said that information communication technology can play an important role in the field because health is fundamentally about learning.

Speaking from the conference he said: “In health we never come into the field complete – we always have more to learn.” – Health-e News


What kind of text messages do health workers receive?

  • Everyone deserves to be treated with respect! As a midwife, the way you treat a mom is really important. Your patient trusts you!
  • Exclusive breastfeeding for six months is best for al babies. Could you (and your facility) be doing more to help moms to get this right?
  • It’s easy to prevent the spread of infection! Always wash hands or spray hands with alcohol-based disinfectant before touching any newborn. – Health-e News
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