The program launched February 8 and is supported by a public-private partnership that includes sponsors like Johnson & Johnson, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Health and Human Services, and CTIA - The Wireless Association.
Users who opt into Text4Baby receive medical expert-approved texts with information ranging from nutrition to oral health to emotional changes, said Judy Meehan, executive director of the HMHB.
“It's a really unique opportunity, because of the technical platform, to offer it in a really timely way because it's timed to the mother's pregnancy and the baby's birth date,” she said. “We're really targeting an audience that is less likely to be online and more likely to have a mobile phone than they have access to Internet or a computer.”
The program is targeted at pregnant women and mothers with babies less than 1 year old, as well as their families and friends. The infant mortality rate in the US is higher than more than two dozen industrialized countries, according to 2005 data.
The coalition, which does not have an in-house communications team, brought in Hill & Knowlton in January 2009 to handle communications. Budget was not disclosed.
The program was announced by Aneesh Chopra, federal chief technology officer and associate director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. A story in the Associated Press and an introduction on the reunion episode of MTV's Teen Mom were timed to coincide with the announcement.
“We'll continue to strategically reach out to various reporters and bloggers including diversity press,” said Stacie Paxton, VP at Hill & Knowlton.
Ongoing media relations will focus on healthcare, mommy, diversity, and mobile bloggers, as well as traditional local and regional outlets. The goal for the media relations component, said Paxton, is to reach the mothers and grandmothers of women who are pregnant, healthcare professionals, and organizations that provide health services.
The program also has a Web site and a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. Radio PSAs were created with Sherri Shepherd, spokesperson for Text4Baby and a host of The View.
“This is a mobile health technology so it's one avenue of many to reach this population,” said Paxton. “The idea is to use a mode of communication that's very familiar, especially to our target audience of younger women, to receive information directly where they are.