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According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 85% of all Americans 18 years and older own a cell phone; of these users, nearly a quarter (72%) of them “text”. A July 2011 report shows that nearly one-third of all adults are “smart phone” users.

Given that these statistics are only likely to increase as technology becomes more advanced and allows us to get information in even smaller and more portable devices, it’s important to consider how technology help in efforts to share important and relevant information, as well as connect individuals with services that fit their needs.

For the past two years, Text4baby, the first ever FREE mobile health service, has been using cell phones to share health tips with pregnant women and new moms. Moms sign up by texting BABY to 511411 (or BEBE to 511411 to receive messages in Spanish) to receive helpful messages that are timed to their due date or baby’s first birthday. These messages include reminders about check-ups, immunizations, oral health, and tips for good nutrition.

We here at the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition serve as the statewide coordinator  and have been working with health departments, community clinics, doctors’ offices, as well as local businesses to promote text4baby. To date, we’ve helped enroll nearly 13,000 users into text4baby and have made FREE outreach materials available for order from our website. We’ve heard firsthand from text4baby users about how direct and simple the messages are and how helpful they can be, especially for first-time parents.

Of the many useful messages provided by text4baby, several of them provide users with information about how they can get no-cost or low-cost health insurance for their children by providing them with the toll-free hotline 1-877-KIDS-NOW (1-877-543-7669).

Parents who call the 1-877-KIDS-NOW number in Illinois will be connected with the All Kids program, which provides affordable health insurance to children who live in Illinois and meet income requirements. Parents can request an All Kids paper application to be sent to their address or they can fill out the online application.

Nearly 1.7 million children in Illinois benefit from the All Kids program, which covers doctor visits, prescription drugs, hospital and emergency services, dental and vision care, and more. Some parents may qualify for FamilyCare coverage for themselves and pregnant women may be able to get benefits from the Moms & Babies program.

Even if text4baby or the All Kids or other health insurance programs may not be something that you need, consider sharing these resources on your Facebook page or sending out a Tweet to your followers about the benefits of these programs. With your help, we can ensure that more women, children, and their families have the best opportunity to lead healthy and productive lives.

Kathy Chan,
Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition
Twitter: @ILMaternal

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