Online Program

Scaling up access to family planning information through SMS in Tanzania

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Jennifer Orkis, MHS, Center for Communication Programs, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Kelly L'Engle, PhD, MPH, Behavioral and Social Sciences, FHI 360, Durham, NC
Heather Vahdat, Behavioral and Social Sciences, FHI 360, Durham, NC
Trinity Zan, MA, Research Utilization Department, FHI 360, Durham, NC
Christine Lasway, MPH, FHI 360, Durham, NC
Elizabeth Ndakidemi, FHI 360, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Robert Karam, MA, Center for Communication Programs, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Robert Ainslie, MA International Affairs, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Mobile for Reproductive Health (m4RH) is a short message service (SMS) system that provides automated information about nine Family Planning (FP) methods through a free, opt-in, interactive menu-based platform. m4RH, originally promoted through clinics and community health workers, is available across all mobile networks in Tanzania. Mass media promotion began in April 2012 as part of a national FP campaign. System queries were tracked through electronic data capture. All users accessing the system were sent four questions on where they learned about m4RH, their gender/marital status, age, and location. A total of 367,198 queries were made by 74,112 unique users between April 1st and September 30th, 2012. Preliminary analyses indicate that among unique users, 58% (n=41,589) reported where they learned about M4RH, 60% (n=43,391) reported age, 64% (n=45,542) reported gender/marital status, and 43% (n=31,882) reported their region. Among respondents, 61% (n=27,768) were male (34% unmarried, 27% married) and 39% female (n=17,774, 21% unmarried, 18% married). The majority of respondents were 24 years or younger (67%), with 26% reporting their age as 19 or younger. Radio/TV/magazine/billboards (47%) and clinics (43) were the most frequent sources for learning about m4RH. Queries were highest for natural FP (18%), condoms (16%), and emergency contraception (13%). In a setting where access to youth-friendly services and male involvement in FP is low, the proportion of men and young people accessing m4RH indicates feasibility for reaching key populations with reproductive health information. M4RH's anonymity, privacy and immediacy may reduce barriers to FP use, thereby facilitating behavior change.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Define the key considerations in designing and implementing an SMS-based information system to provide reproductive health information via mobile phone. Explain how use of an SMS platform as a complementary channel in a mass media campaign can reduce barriers to behavior change by providing key populations with in-depth information in a confidential manner.

Keyword(s): International Family Planning, New Technology

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been working in behavior change communication and public health for the last 20 years.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.