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When Texting is a Healthy Thing

May 13, 2010

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Anti-texting safety messages are everywhere - on the airwaves, on buses, around family dinner tables - but a new program promoting maternal health encourages expectant moms to text. The program, called Text4Babies, provides timely health tips to pregnant women and new mothers, keyed to the stage of pregnancy they're in or the age of their babies. It's coordinated through a national group called Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies.

The New Haven Health Department has became the first in the state to join a nationwide effort to reach expectant moms by text message through this program, and many other Connecticut cities soon will be joining, too. New Haven's acting health director, Dr. Chisara Asomugha, explains why it's needed.

"In the United States, more than 500,000 babies - that's one in eight babies - are born prematurely, and an estimated 28,000 children die each year before their first birthday. This is a public health crisis."

She says 91 percent of Americans have access to cellular service, and the most popular feature is text messaging, so this is a way to reach a lot of people - especially teens.

Maria Damiani, the head of maternal, child and family health for the New Haven Health Department, says the texted information is up-to-the-minute.

"Instead of handing out pamphlets and brochures that are obsolete 20 minutes after we do it, we're now doing stuff electronically and moving into the 21st century."

The program also will provide other resources a woman might need, like access to an obstetrician if she doesn't have one. Community Health Centers in Middletown, Bristol, Clinton, Danbury, Enfield, Groton, Meriden, New Britain, New London, Norwalk, Old Saybrook and Stamford will soon join the program.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT