Using WhatsApp to support maternal health in South Africa

South Africa's Praekelt.org, a non-profit organization that uses technology for social impact, partnered with WhatsApp to use the Whatsapp Enterprise Solution to engage with mothers on the South African Department of Health’s MomConnect platform. MomConnect is available in all clinics in South Africa with reportedly over 1,8 million mothers registered since its inception in August 2014.

MomConnect is a South African National Department of Health initiative which supports maternal health through the use of cell phone based technologies integrated into maternal and child health services.

Mother using the MomConnect
A mother using the MomConnect platform in South Africa.

“MomConnect is helping to achieve South Africa’s Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to reduce maternal and child mortality. Using Whatsapp to connect to Moms is an incredible opportunity to have them take a more immediate and active role in their healthcare whilst affording us the ability to significantly scale MomConnect,” said Gustav Praekelt, founder of Praekelt.org.

During September 2017 in South Africa, all public health registrations on the MomConnect platform were given the option of using WhatsApp as their medium of choice for receiving maternal health information. Mothers receive a regular Whatsapp update with information and illustrations. They can also opt-in for additional messages on their baby’s progress.

According to Praekelt.org, there has been an overwhelming response from mothers since they kicked off the Whatsapp pilot. The 1% of MomConnect subscribers using WhatsApp are now generating more than 50% of the platform's HelpDesk queries.

Most popular models of disseminating stage-based information to pregnant mothers centre around email and SMS. In many countries these means are often too expensive or simply inaccessible for many women. Whatsapp provides a cost effective and engaging way for mothers to access this information in their language of choice.

Also, given that the last decade has witnessed the power of mobile phones and data connectivity to advance the delivery of vital information and services, WhatsApp provides the opportunity to rapidly scale up and iterate a completely new model of social impact in in Aftika.

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