Mobile Moms/Liga Inan Project Health Staff Training in Same Sub-District
Our training day started on a twenty-minute flight from Dili to Same, the small district center of Manufahi district. In contrast to Dili's international airport, in Same we landed on a grassy meadow-turned-airstrip, frightening local cattle that are grazing nearby. The project car was there to meet us and we made the short trip into the Same District Health office for the training.
We are here to provide the first hands-on training of local midwives and other health staff in HAI's USAID-funded Liga Inan project. Liga Inan means "connecting women;" the women we connect will be pregnant women and their midwives from the national health program, the Ministry of Health (MOH). In this rural district, many women live far from health facilities, and some far from a motorable road. Although most attend prenatal care with the midwives, the time available for teaching the mothers during those visits about how best to safeguard their pregnancies - such as how to recognize when there are problems that need medical attention - is brief. The Liga Inan project will send SMS messages about the prenatal, delivery and postpartum periods twice weekly to pregnant women who are registered with the project.
The larger aim of the project is to improve the communication - electronic and interpersonal - between midwives and their patients. Cell phone use is remarkably high even in this remote area of the country; as many as 69% of the women have mobile phones in their household and most use them for text messaging. Pregnant women in the program will be able to send a simple text to their midwife if they have questions or concerns, and the midwife will call them back to provide information, reassurance, instructions or in cases of emergency, transport to a health facility. When it comes time to deliver, the midwives will make regular checks on the women and help them to either attend a facility for the birth or, in other cases, go themselves to the home to assist at the delivery.
The project is possible because of a close collaboration with Catalpa International, a mobile and software development firm. Also because Catalpa's key staff have extensive experience working in Timor-Leste and are fluent in the local language, Tetum, they are able to be actively involved in the 3-day training. Catalpa has set up the web-based platform that will send out the text messages, record all the text-based interactions of the project, and establish links with the resources that pregnant women and their midwives may need. Staff and officials of the district and central MOH, as well as community members and leaders, have been very involved in the development of the program and provide invaluable support as it is launched.
By the end of the first day of the training, the midwives are familiar with the functions of the new phones, which are larger than those typically used locally, and have practiced data entry and other functions for the project. On the second day they learned from our midwife trainer how the phones will be used to improve their care of pregnant women. Excitement is in the air - we are well on our way towards implementing a new and innovative project that aims, ultimately, to improve the health and birth outcomes of Timorese women.
Photos by Catalpa International