National survey of Russia’s SMSmame mHealth program reveals progress

The Health and Development Foundation recently carried out a national survey among participants of its maternal and child mHealth program, SMSmame. This program (“SMS to Mom” in Russian, also known as Text4baby Russia) provides new and expectant mothers with free text messages to their mobile phones with information on caring for their own health and the health of their children.

This program is based on the successful U.S. maternal and child health initiative, Text4baby, and was developed under the auspices of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission in 2010-2011 and launched nationwide in Russia by the Health and Development Foundation in February 2012.

Text messages are sent to subscribers (pregnant women and mothers with children up until their first birthday, and family members). Message topics include nutrition, safety, substance abuse prevention, legal rights, mental health, exercise, developmental milestones, breastfeeding and more. Subscribers receive personalized information, as messages are organized and sent in accordance with their children’s due date or birth date. Messages contain no advertisements, spam, or product promotions.

This survey was conducted during April-October 2013 among 751 respondents from 64 Russian regions. Of these, 49 respondents were interviewed at the Federal Kulakov Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Perinatology on April 2, 2013. These respondents (pregnant women) were attending two classes led by medical specialists at the center on the first anniversary of the SMSmame program launch. The other respondents were reached through an Internet survey in September-October 2013. Of these, 50 were pregnant, and 652 were mothers whose children were under one year of age.

Client satisfaction

SMSmame clients who responded to the survey reported an overwhelmingly positive opinion of the service: 41.6% said they were highly satisfied with it, and 33.7% were satisfied.

Beyond their stated satisfaction, the actions of respondents demonstrated their high opinion of SMSmame. One measure of client satisfaction is the length of time they had been subscribers. Nearly a quarter of respondents had been subscribers for over a year (23.8%) and 27.9% had been subscribers for 9-12 months (fig.1).




Clients continue to participate in programs that provide a useful service. One of the key goals of SMSmame is to provide reliable, relevant health information to subscribers, and the fact that 91% of respondents save program text messages for future reference (62.4% doing so regularly) demonstrates that the program is meeting this goal.

Another telling indication of client satisfaction is that 72% of respondents had recommended the program to friends or acquaintances, and 42% had done so more than once.

Motivation to seek out additional information

SMSmame is intended not only as an information resource, but also as a way to motivate subscribers to seek out additional information from reliable sources on message topics. Survey results indicate that the service does indeed function as a source of motivation for the majority of respondents (90.9%) (fig.2). 




One area for improvement is client motivation to speak with their doctors about text message topics; only a quarter of respondents were motivated by the service to do so (21.8% “sometimes”, and 3.1% “on a regular basis”). Program developers will take this data into account for future revision and improvement of services.

Other areas for development

Survey data also indicated other areas in which the program could be developed and improved. Respondent replies show client support for an expansion of text message topics. Respondents suggested the introduction of such topics as advice for fathers, reading recommendations, preparing for the maternity hospital, and more.

Survey respondents would also prefer to receive text messages more frequently: a third (31.6%) of respondents are satisified with the current rate of 1-2 messages per week. However, a majority would prefer to receive more messages; among that group, 31.1% would like to receive 3-4 messages weekly. The remaining third would like to receive 5 or more messages per week. This desire for greater frequency of text messages is yet another positive sign of the value of the service for pregnant women and new mothers.

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