Public-Private Partnerships go Mobile

May 4, 2011 By Molly Lester

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday announced the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), an “exciting approach” to public-private partnerships focused on improving maternal and child health through the use of mobile technology.  Leveraging the resources of USAID and Johnson & Johnson, supported by the United Nations Foundation, mHealth Alliance and BabyCenter LLC, and in collaboration with the White House and Department of State, MAMA expects to mobilize $10 million in Bangladesh, India and South Africa to “harness the power of mobile technology to deliver vital health information to new and expectant mothers.”  This is another example of how cooperation between the public and private sector can augment the resources of both to provide real development results through innovative investments.

According to USAID Administrator Raj Shah, this alliance helps give “the hard to reach the health information they otherwise would not receive,” which in turn “empower[s] these women to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families.”  MAMA represents “another tool in our arsenal” of global health programs, said Secretary Clinton, an area where “we can really trace U.S. Government efforts that have made a difference in the lives of women, babies, and children.”  “This new initiative will take the vision that world leaders and the UN Secretary-General announced last year and turn it into action,” said Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation.

Founding partners USAID and Johnson & Johnson will provide the funding and strategic leadership for MAMA to “help coordinate and increase the impact of existing mobile health programs” by using mobile messaging to provide women with information about pregnancy, connect them with local health services, and dispel misinformation.  Bill Weldon, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, says, “This public-private partnership adds another way we are extending our commitment to moms everywhere.” By connecting public agencies, the private sector, and civil society partners in coordinated action, this partnership supports the complementary goals set out in President Obama’s Policy Directive on Global Development, the Global Health Initiative, and the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women and Children.

If the three-year program shows positive results, MAMA will expand to include other developing countries.  As Clinton said at the announcement, “it’s clear that with the right tools, the right partnerships, and the right commitment, we can achieve real results. It’s not only the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do as well. Improving the health and status of women and girls acts as a positive multiplier because when women succeed, they lift themselves, they lift their families and their communities along with them.”