Making the Text-to-Mom Connection

Earlier this week, I wrote about text4baby, a free service that sends text messages to pregnant women, or new mothers, to provide them with useful health tips.  

What struck me as most noteworthy about this program was how hundreds of different types of organizations — for-profit health care providers, nonprofit community groups, wireless carriers, government agencies, and many others — had collaborated to make it all work. Text4baby seemed to shed light on the question: How do you get a country — with all its diverse institutional strengths — to work as a team?

It’s a particularly important question today because in our current climate of hyper-polarization, it can be easy to forget the “united” in United States. That’s why I wanted to understand what made the partnership hang together.

There were a number of factors that seemed crucial. To begin with, the need for the service is widely accepted as serious and urgent; the concept and the messages are easy to understand; and the scientific evidence behind the health advice is seen as legitimate. A reader, Amy from North Carolina observed that she was “happy to see the term ‘evidence-based’ used in the article” because of “the amount of … misinformation spread to new parents on the Internet.”

Text4baby is an excellent entry point to forge new alliances because it’s hard to find anybody who is anti-baby.
Paul Stange, a policy advisor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who played a central role marshaling support for text4baby within the C.D.C., suggested that one of the most important factors in the widespread adoption of the service is its “fanatical attention to the science.” “With so many partners and millions of messages going out to so many people, the potential for a backlash would be severe if any messages were questionable,” he said.

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