Today Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that text4baby has been selected as one of three winners of the Department’s new HHSInnovates award. Congratulations to all who have been involved in making this important service a reality!
Text4baby is a free text messaging service that delivers timely health information during pregnancy and through a baby’s first year. Women sign up for the service by texting BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to 511411. Since its launch by federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra in February, more than 64,000 subscribers have signed up for the service, more than 3.5 million messages have been sent, and more than 300 outreach partners, including national, state, business, academic, non-profit, and other groups, have signed up to promote the service.
The HHSInnovates award is a key part of the HHS Open Government Plan. As HHS Chief Technology Officer Todd Park described it in a blog post earlier this summer, HHSInnovates is a competition to identify and celebrate the top innovations in how HHS does business – innovations that have succeeded in improving its service to the American public, including breakthroughs in HHS transparency, public engagement, and collaboration across HHS and with the world outside HHS.
At an awards ceremony at HHS headquarters in Washington, DC today, Secretary Sebelius and other Department leaders congratulated HHS employees Sabrina Matoff-Stepp of the Health Resources and Services Administration; Juliette Kendrick, Yvonne Green and Paul Stange of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Valerie Scardino from the Office of Public Health and Science, along with Judy Meehan from the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition and Paul Meyer from Voxiva.
As these awardees—and the countless others who contributed their time and talents to text4baby—can attest, it was not a simple challenge to develop a free service that involves every major mobile phone carrier and delivers carefully vetted, easily understandable health information, all in the space of a text message. The day-to-day efforts required to create and launch this innovative service were not glamorous – gradually gaining acceptance of a new idea, late nights and weekends going above and beyond the call of duty, and coordinating a diverse set of partners. These innovators deserve tremendous credit for ensuring that the Federal Government lived up to its potential as a key partner by seizing the opportunity to help leverage cell phones to improve the lives of moms and babies around the country.
As an added benefit, the program has helped create a new community of Federal partners who have experience and expertise in mobile phone-based public health programs. So stay tuned. There will be more to come in this area, including a major mHealth Summit in November that will feature keynotes by Aneesh Chopra, Bill Gates, Ted Turner, and others.
Hillary Chen is a Policy Analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy