Sharon D’Agostino, Vice President, Worldwide Corporate Contributions and Community Relations, Johnson & Johnson
It’s a well-known phenomenon: on Mother’s Day, long distance and international call volume spikes higher than on any other day of the year. Collectively, we reach across countries or oceans to send our love and thanks to the wonderful women who brought us into the world. Technology allows us to let our mothers know that we are thinking about them even if we can’t be with them on Mother’s Day. For women who live in some of the most challenging places on earth to give birth, the same technology – the phone – can help women have safer pregnancies and healthier babies.
Today, one billion women in low and middle-income countries own mobile phones, but 48 million give birth every year without the help of a skilled birth attendant. In some countries in Africa and Asia, the lifetime risk of dying in childbirth is greater than 1 in 20. Without access to basic health care or critical information during pregnancy, a woman might not recognize signs of trouble or know when to visit a health clinic. She faces the threat of infection and preventable complications that can lead to death before she even has the chance to meet the baby whose due date she anxiously awaits.
This Mother’s Day, I was excited to be part of the team that unveiled a program to bring crucial health information to pregnant women and new mothers in low-resource countries. USAID and Johnson & Johnson have partnered with the United Nations Foundation, mHealth Alliance and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to launch the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA). This initiative, announced by Secretary of State Clinton last week, will reach women in South Africa, India and Bangladesh with customized text messages timed to the stage of their pregnancy or age of their new baby. We are also committed to collaborating with similar initiatives in order to encourage a global exchange of information and best practices, accelerating efforts to reach the women who most need vital health information.
True public-private partnerships are rare, and this one is special because it applies each partner’s expertise and resources to leverage
an infrastructure that is already in place. Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action’s goal is to raise US$10 million to support country-led sustainable programs to scale up mobile health services in some of the hardest-to-reach places in the world.
If you are one of the millions who picked up a mobile phone to call your mother on Mother’s Day to show your appreciation, it is my hope that you will also take a moment to appreciate the technology that made your call possible – and that holds the promise of be the gateway to a healthier pregnancies for millions of women.