GOOD Maker Winner: Text Messages Boost Immunizations and Save Lives in India
Photo courtesy of Priyanka Pathak
In Kurnool, a bustling urban center in southern India, more than 500 parents will receive critical vaccination alerts for their newborns via text message thanks to the tech entrepreneurs at Medic Mobile. The global nonprofit, which creates open-source tools to support health workers and the communities they serve, piloted the SMS-based system with a $5,000 grant from the Gates Foundation as part of last year's GOOD Vaccine Challenge calling for ideas to improve vaccine awareness and access.
The concept is simple: Families opt to receive a text-generated immunization schedule based on their child’s birth date, streamlining communication between parents and local clinicians and saving time, resources, and lives. Using the seed money from the challenge, Medic Mobile built a customized data-management platform and recruited two Columbia University fellows, Nadia Hasham and Priyanka Pathak, to help with execution at street level. “Even locals—including doctors and government officials—who were originally skeptical [about the program]… now express confidence in the system’s ability to positively impact immunization in Kurnool,” Hasham says. Pathak, now working as Medic Mobile’s regional director of South Asia, adds, “It also seems to be making mothers and caregivers want to seek out more information about vaccinations and healthcare for their children in general.”
The project’s success has inspired Medic Mobile co-founder Nadim Mahmud to pursue expansion—he says that the Indian government has already taken an interest in scaling the system through its network of clinics. “It's really rewarding to hear about families who actually change their behaviors and get their children vaccinated, and I'm proud that we’ve developed a system that has been able to do this in a cost-effective way.”
Nadim encourages future applicants to GOOD Maker challenges to connect individually with people in their networks through phone calls or emails, rather than mass messages. “We found that applying for the grant was a good opportunity to talk about our work more broadly, beyond simply requesting votes," he says. "It’s nice to have supporters whom you can depend on not just for the moment, but for the long haul.”