USAID: MAMA - New mobile health partnership launched to save lives at birth

Quotes of note from the MAMA launch event

USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg unveiled the new alliance at a launch in Washington on 3 May 2011, remarking that in most of the countries where USAID operates, the title of expectant mother is one of the most dangerous and life threatening that any woman can have. “But we have seen that combating maternal and child mortality is a winnable battle,” he said. “The public-private partnership we’re here to celebrate and to announce is aimed at further improving maternal and child health by harnessing the power of mobile technology to deliver vital health information to expectant mothers and new mothers, empowering them to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed great satisfaction introducing the new Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, or MAMA. “I love acronyms when they work,” she said. “Over the next three years, this $10 million partnership will be piloted in three countries — Bangladesh, South Africa, and India — and if it is successful, as we expect it to be, we will expand it. We have the ability, therefore, to help more women live healthy lives and more babies to get off to a healthy start; and that’s why we have to keep asking ourselves what works and let’s take it to scale, and if it doesn’t work, let’s quit doing it and find something more innovative and effective.”

Secretary Clinton reaffirmed the US government’s commitment to placing women at the heart of efforts to meet global health targets because it’s the smart thing to do. “According to a recent analysis published in the Lancet, half the reduction in child mortality over the past 40 years can be directly attributed to better education for women,” she said. “If a woman knows better how to care for her child she will demand more and receive more, enabling her to do so. So that’s why we’ve put women and children at the heart of our development efforts, including the Global Health Initiative. Through the Global Health Initiative we’ve set very ambitious new targets for improvements in maternal and child health and access to family planning. We want our efforts to be broad-based, self-sustaining and country led.”

US Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra praised the new partnership as “an exciting approach to using technological innovation to address development challenges.” She added that “the growing global network of mobile health information programs will deepen our understanding of how best to use mobile phones as a tool to improve women’s and children’s health.”

William Weldon, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Johnson & Johnson said better health for communities starts with better health for expectant and new moms. “This public-private partnership adds another way we are extending our commitment to moms everywhere,” he said. “It’s part of fulfilling our commitment to the UN Secretary General's Global Strategy to advance the Millennium Development Goals.”

Christy Turlington Burns, Entrepreneur, Model, Author, and Founder of Every Mother Counts, spoke about her personal experience witnessing the impact of mobile technology while shooting her documentary No Woman, No Cry, which is scheduled for its television broadcast premiere on 7 May 2011. “When we filmed in Bangladesh in 2009, I saw first-hand how effective this technology already was for expectant and new moms who are hungry for information to help them better care for their families,” she said. “Providing these services at such a critical time can and will save countless lives.”

The event also included a panel discussion with Maura O’Neill, Senior Counselor to the Administrator for Innovation at USAID, Kathy Calvin, Chief Executive Officer of the United Nations Foundation, Tina Sharkey, Global President and Chairman for BabyCenter, and Karl Brown, Associate Director of the Rockefeller Foundation, Board Member of mHealth Alliance.