According to the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), there has been a major decrease in child mortality rates in South Africa- these statistics are proof that that child health in the country is certainly improving. One of the initiatives that government is using to improve healthcare is a SMS service called MomConnect, a messaging system that aims to create awareness amongst pregnant women about available health services for their infants.
Launched by the country’s Department of Health, in collaboration with a range of partners including academic institutions and non-governmental organisations, MomConnect not only provides thousands of expectant moms with free antenatal healthcare information but it is also a platform where they can receive important information and advice on pregnancy and most importantly, they can also use the service to notify the department about poor service.
It doesn’t stop there, after childbirth, the department continues to send vital information to new moms for a period of one year. This includes advice on how to take care of a new-born, reminders on important vaccination dates and other relevant information on child care.
Due to its success after it was launched in 2014, the Department of Health’s MomConnect service will now be available on Facebook as a Messenger bot. The MomConnect bot will add a number of new messages that will be fed to the relevant users. These include messages that aim to support mothers who are HIV positive. The new development was announced by the PraekeIt Foundation, one of the department’s partners, at this week’s 21st AIDS Conference held in Durban.
“To be relevant with the latest technologies, we have created a bot to integrate into the platform, as they allow mothers and health care professionals a cheaper way to access vital maternal health and HIV information personalised to them directly on their mobile devices. We’re proud to lead their integration into health systems,” said Praekelt founder Gustav Praekelt.
The IRR found that the under-five mortality rate had declined from 77.2 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2002 to 45.1 deaths per 1 000 live births deaths in 2015. The institute also found that deaths of infants under one year of age declined from 51.2 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2002 to 34. 4 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2015.
These are improvements definitely worth celebrating!