Mobile phone company Vodacom says subscription to its "Mum & Baby" service has grown to 1.4 million. Bloomberg

JOHANNESBURG  - Mobile phone company Vodacom says subscription to its "Mum & Baby" service has grown to 1.4 million, giving more parents in South Africa access to reliable health information during pregnancy and their children's early years from a single, easy-to-use source.

Since its launch in 2017, the service has connected mothers and caregivers to pregnancy, maternal, neonatal, child health advice and wellbeing information in what Vodacom says is a demonstration of its commitment to utilising technology to transform people’s lives.

The service is offered in the form of SMS messages, educational articles, tutorials, videos and tools like a due date calculator.

“Vodacom is committed to providing access to reliable health information and advice throughout the pregnancy stages and early years as it plays a pivotal role in improving maternal and child health in South Africa,” Vodacom chief officer for corporate affairs Takalani Netshitenzhe said.

"Not only does a wide range of health and wellbeing related content, tailored for roles and the gestation stage or the age of the child, enable our subscribers to learn about themselves and their little ones as part of a Vodacom-supported community, but the growth of the platform to 1.4 million also reflects the forward momentum that Vodacom has been able to make in closing the mobile gender gap through the Mum & Baby service.”

The service forms part of Vodacom’s "Siyakha" platform that aims to empower South Africans with free access to online learning, job sites and funeral cover, among other offerings.

"Mum & Baby" is free to all Vodacom subscribers even if they are not registered on "Siyakha".

Service user Hlengiwe Ximba, who has a two-year-old child, subscribed to the service when her baby was three months old.

"Before I made use of the Mum & Baby service, I feared things that I didn’t know, but now I feel more empowered to look after myself and my son. For example, the service has taught me how to establish a routine with my baby, particularly about sleeping," she said.

Research shows 81 percent of subscribers live in the Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.

Users comprise of pregnant women at 30 percent, while 27 percent are mothers and 24 percent are fathers.

"I am able to use the service to compare my experience of fatherhood before and after I had access to the Mum & Baby service," said Isaac Molalo, a father of two who lives in Mokopane, Limpopo.

In a survey, 98 percent of mothers and pregnant women said they had taken action to improve their child’s health as a result of access to the information the service provides, while 95 percent said it influenced their decision to breastfeed and 97 percent said it helped them decide to visit a health centre for check-ups.

Of those surveyed, 96 percent agreed that the information received helped with their decision to vaccinate their child.

- African News Agency (ANA)