MOULTRIE — An innovative public service initiative using mobile phones and texting technology is now available free to pregnant women and new mothers in Southwest Georgia and throughout the nation.

“The new program, called text4baby, provides timely health information to women from early pregnancy through their babies’ first year,” Southwest Health District Health Director Jacqueline Grant said. “The maternal and child health text messages will help them take care of their health and give their babies the best possible start in life.”

To sign up, text BABY to 511411 (BEBE in Spanish) or go online to www.text4baby.org and click on the registration box. Participants will receive one general information message per day for the first six days.

After that, they will get three messages a week throughout their pregnancy and up until their child’s first birthday. If their due date changes or they deliver their baby early, participants can adjust the messages by texting UPDATE to 511411.

The text4baby initiative dovetails with the District’s CenteringPregnancy program, which focuses on making prenatal care more accessible to African-American women of child-bearing age in Southwest Georgia, Grant said.

“CenteringPregnancy provides prenatal care in groups, although participants continue to receive one-on-one time with an obstetrician,” Grant said. “In group sessions participants learn to chart their progress, exchange information and share concerns with others going through the same things they are experiencing.”

Ninety percent of Americans have a mobile phone, and texting is especially prevalent among women of childbearing age and minority populations, who face higher infant mortality rates, according to the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“Getting connected to prenatal care and other services for a healthy pregnancy is a problem for a lot of women,” Wanda Jones, principal deputy assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a press release announcing the launch of the mobile technology service. “Text4baby provides pregnant women and new mothers with a new tool to obtain vital information that is critical to maternal and child health.”

Topics in the text messages include nutrition, seasonal flu prevention and treatment, mental health, oral health, safe sleep, immunization schedules and risks of tobacco use.

Text4baby is available to more than 96 percent of mobile subscribers. To learn more, contact the local county health department, or go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org or www.text4baby.org.

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