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The MomConnect helpdesk: how an interactive mobile messaging programme is used by mothers in South Africa
  1. Khou Xiong1,
  2. Joy Kamunyori2,
  3. Jane Sebidi3
  1. 1 MEASURE Evaluation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2 MEASURE Evaluation Strategic Information for South Africa (MEval-SIFSA), ICF, Pretoria, South Africa
  3. 3 Strategic Health Programmes, National Department of Health, Pretoria, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Khou Xiong; kxiong{at}


South Africa’s MomConnect mobile messaging programme, which aims to promote safe motherhood and improve pregnancy outcomes for South African women, includes a helpdesk feature which allows women registered on the system to ask maternal and child health (MCH)-related questions and to provide feedback on health services received at public health clinics. Messages sent to the helpdesk are answered by staff located at the National Department of Health. We examined event data from the MomConnect helpdesk database to identify any patterns in messages received, such as correlation of frequency or types of messages with location. We also explored what these data could tell us about the helpdesk’s effectiveness in improving health service delivery at public health clinics. We found that approximately 8% of registered MomConnect users used the helpdesk, and that usage was generally proportional to the use of antenatal care (ANC) services in provinces (as indicated by number of ANC first visits and number of MomConnect registrations), except in two provinces. Language, category and key topics of helpdesk messages were correlated with provinces. Most users accessed the helpdesk to seek maternal information, and where feedback about health services was provided, there were significantly more compliments than complaints. The MomConnect helpdesk is an important resource providing expectant mothers and mothers of infants with an interactive option for accessing MCH-related information—above that included in the standard MomConnect messages—and advances achievement of the health goals of the MomConnect programme.

  • health education and promotion
  • maternal health

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  • Handling editor Seye Abimbola

  • Contributors KX developed the study design, extracted, cleaned and analysed the data, and contributed to the writing and multiple reviews of the manuscript. JK reviewed the study design, conducted a literature search and contributed to the writing and multiple reviews of the manuscript. JS provided important context and background information and reviewed the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding MEASURE Evaluation-Strategic Information for South Africa is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through associate award AID-674-LA-13-00005 and implemented by the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in partnership with ICF International; John Snow, Inc.; Management Sciences for Health; Palladium; and Tulane University. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the US government.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.