Health Alliance International (HAI) with the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Timor-Leste and Catalpa International implemented a mobile phone-based mHealth program in 2013 known as Liga Inan (“Connecting Mothers”). Liga Inan was designed as a sustainable and scalable effort that would support MoH efforts to improve maternal and newborn health care-seeking and home practices. Key aims were to use mobile phone technology to improve communication between pregnant women and their MoH health providers and to increase optimal maternal health behaviors. MoH health staff registered pregnant women into Liga Inan at their first antenatal care (ANC) visit and followed them through pregnancy, delivery and six months postpartum. A web-based platform sent text messages twice weekly to promote safe pregnancy/delivery and facilitated phone communication between pregnant women and their MoH care providers.
For the program’s final evaluation, baseline (2012) and final (2015) surveys interviewed women in one intervention district and one adjacent control district who had given birth in the preceding two years. Primary outcomes were receiving four or more ANC visits, using skilled birth attendants, delivery in health facilities, and timely postnatal care.
Multivariate analysis compared endline maternal health behaviors for women in the intervention district compared to baseline and to women in the control district. Controlling for other factors, women in the intervention district had nearly twice the odds of having a skilled birth attendant and a facility delivery, nearly five times the odds of receiving a postpartum care visit within two days of delivery, and over five times the odds of having their newborn’s health checked within two days of birth. There was no significant association between Liga Inan exposure and receipt of four or more ANC visits.
Liga Inan was associated with substantial increases in MoH health provider-assisted and facility-based births and timely postnatal care in Timor-Leste. These positive results led the MoH to incorporate Liga Inan into the national maternal and child health program. To date the program has expanded to cover all 13 districts in the country, with gradual assumption of management and financial responsibility by the MoH under way.