News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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Northern Michigan agencies first in state to partner with Text4baby
First-ever free mobile health service provides health tips to pregnant women, new moms

(March 19, 2010) Today, the Great Start Collaborative and Health Department of Northwest Michigan announced they are the first local partners in Michigan for Text4baby--a new free mobile information service providing timely health information to pregnant women and new moms from pregnancy through a baby's first year.

Women who sign up for the service by texting BABY to 511411 (or BEBE for Spanish) receive three free SMS text messages each week timed to their due date or baby's date of birth. These messages focus on a variety of topics critical to maternal and child health, including birth defects prevention, immunization, nutrition, seasonal flu, mental health, oral health and safe sleep. Text4baby messages also connect women to prenatal and infant care services and other resources.

An educational program of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB), Text4baby delivers timely health tips via text message to those who need it most. It is made possible through an unprecedented public-private partnership which includes the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Voxiva, CTIA-The Wireless Foundation, ghg (a WPP company) and founding corporate sponsor Johnson & Johnson. Premier sponsors, including Wellpoint, Pfizer and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and wireless carriers, are distributing text messages at no charge to recipients. Implementation partners include BabyCenter, Danya International, Syniverse Technologies, Keynote Systems and The George Washington University.

"We believe the power of partnership and community can make an incredible difference in women's and children's lives," said Judy Meehan, executive director of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition. "Text4baby brings HMHB's mission to life and with the help of our partners, we believe we can be a strong catalyst for change."

Each year in the U.S., more than 500,000 babies are born prematurely and an estimated 28,000 children die before their first birthday--signifying a public health crisis. The infant mortality rate in the U.S. is one of the highest in the industrialized world, and for the first time since the 1950s, that rate is on the rise. Research shows that while 90 percent of Americans have a mobile phone, fewer have access to the Internet and texting is more prevalent among women of childbearing age.

"Great Start and the Health Department are proud to be a part of Text4baby," said Joshua Meyerson, Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "Mobile health services around the world have demonstrated the ability to help change patient behavior and improve health outcomes, and we believe that this program can have a significant impact on maternal and child health in our country."

"By putting key health information directly into the hands of pregnant women and new moms, Text4baby demonstrates the tremendous reach of mobile health technology and the ability of mobile phones to inform and engage people to help them live healthier lives," said Sommer Poquette, Great Start Director. "These same tools can be applied to many of the America's big health care challenges."

"We believe programs like Text4baby are critical to providing much-needed information and support to pregnant women and new moms, especially among underserved populations," added Pat Fralick, Director of Family & Community Health Services at the Health Department. "We hope this program not only helps reduce infant mortality rates, but also serves as an example of how the private and public sectors can work together to solve problems."

Any pregnant woman or new mom who lives in the U.S. can sign up for Text4baby. 96% of cell phone providers are program sponsors; there is no charge for Text4baby from these providers, which include Alltel, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. To register for Text4baby, text BABY to 511411 or visit For more information, visit

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties.