The state government has come up with a cost-effective initiative to improve the health of women and children, under which young mothers will be sent automated voice messages guiding them on methods of breast feeding, vaccination, diarrhea, family planning and supplementary nutrition for their children, till the time they turn five.
The programme, set to be launched in Mumbai city, has multiple partners with an MoU signed between pharma giant Johnson and Johnson, Tata Trusts, NGO Armman and the Maharashtra government. Gradually, the programme will cover other districts that report high cases of malnutrition.
The initiative is a scale-up of the existing Mmitra programme, which currently has 3 lakh women registered to receive advice on maternal and child care across 37 government hospitals and maternity homes in Mumbai.
Under Mmitra, pregnant women receive weekly messages about the health of the foetus, the next sonography appointment and interesting information about maternal health.
Now, mothers will continue to receive audio messages even after childbirth and up to five years, first on a daily basis, then on weekly and gradually on monthly basis.
“We have already prepared the audio content. For now, we are starting with the women registered with us,” said Dr Aparna Hegde, founder of Armman.
A call centre with three nutrition experts and seven counsellors will also be available to guide mothers through any difficulty.
Severely undernourished children will get eight weeks of intensive care, where their mother will be guided on steps to improve their health through calls and voice messages. Women can choose the time at which they want to receive the message and free counselling on her mobile phone.
“The focus is on reaching out to pregnant and young mothers in urban and semi-urban areas,” said Sujata Saunik, principal secretary (health).
The state government, in this year’s budget, slashed funds for the Women and Child Development department from Rs 3,568 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 1,340 crore in 2016-17. Additionally, the Centre’s funding for the National Health Mission has been reduced by 15 per cent for the state. “If we need more funds, we will make supplementary demands. We did so last year,” Saunik said.
On March 31, the government also signed a separate MoU with Tata Trusts on handling undernutrition.
“We will engage national and international experts to handle undernutrition. Measures will be taken to prevent incidence of undernutrition. If funds are needed, help from food and civil supplies department will be taken,” said Dr Anand Bang, advisor to Tata Trusts.