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an African woman’s lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes is 100 times higher than that of a woman in a developed country: From the Building a Future for Women and Children 2012 Report (World Health Organisation and UNICEF, 2012)



iMobiMaMa is a South African mobile health service that connects pregnant women with the information and services necessary to secure the safe delivery of  healthy babies. Using mobile technology coupled with medical devices that can measure and test pregnancy milestones, iMobiMaMa is an interactive service that records maternal health information and responds with information appropriate to individual needs. The project supports the public health system by encouraging early bookings with health services; and offers a supplementary service through local, accessible iMobiMaMa vending stations, at which pregnant women can register their pregnancies and monitor pregnancy milestones.


South Africa has struggled to improve maternal and infant mortality rates (two of the eight Millennium Development Goals set for 2015). For example, the Institutional Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) has increased to 176.22 per 100,000 live births from 151.77 per 100,000 live births between 2005 and 2007 (Saving Lives, May 2012). Apart from HIV/Aids, the main causes are preventable ones: late access to antenatal care, untreated high blood pressure and untreated bleeding during birth. The national Department of Health has identified early access to health services as critical for improving statistics; and mobile technology as key to increasing early bookings with health services.


iMobiMaMa is the brainchild of Dr Carol Thomas, of theWomanSpace. A Specialist Obstetrician/Gynaecologist with experience in the academic, public, NGO and private sectors, she has been extensively involved in Reproductive, Sexual Rights and Health advocacy initiatives in South Africa. The project is managed and incubated by The Design Cradle, a non-profit company that uses Design for social impact. The Design Cradle’s Lorelle Bell and Kaylene Levack provide Design, Strategy, Communication and Fundraising services.  Research and Design consultant Byron Qually is responsible for Industrial Design, the online content portal and field research methodology.

    Only 40% of pregnant women access antenatal care before 20 weeks
  • Access care40%

  • The unbooked pregnant patient represents 40% of pregnant patients
  • Unbooked ratio40%

  • The unbooked pregnant patient represents 80% of deaths in the group above
  • illness and deaths80%



iMobiMaMa’s interactive health kits are equipped with medical devices that test blood pressure and urine; measure height and weight; and detect fetal heart rates. The kits enable community-based “healthcare vendors” to offer pregnant women easy, convenient and cost-effective access to the information and primary testing that can help ensure safe, successful births. At the same time, iMobiMaMa links pregnant women to public health services and encourages early antenatal bookings. Using mobile technology, iMobiMaMa registers pregnant women and assists them to track their pregnancies for progress and potential complications, through mother The Woman Space which trains, supports and monitors iMobiMaMa vendors in collaboration with partner community-based organisations. iMobiMaMa health kits are mobile, modular and easily transportable by healthcare vendors in diverse settings. They’re designed to be used by healthcare entrepreneurs who may add the retail of maternity and baby products to their service offering.

some conceptual designs


Mobile technology has been identified as an effective tool for encouraging early engagement with public health services in South Africa and the national Department of Health has established an mHealth stakeholder group. A number of local mHealth organisations exist to disseminate information to pregnant women. Their communication model is, however, a one-way one, which does not encourage interaction with “clients” or the effective measurement of impact. By contrast, iMobiMaMa’s interactive, two-tier model enables targeted support; tracks individual pregnancies; and facilitates the measurement of impact by health and public facility partners. The iMobiMaMa Project also offers other significant benefits to government. It facilitates an extensive Pregnancy Register, provides information on the public health facilities available to pregnant women and the services offered (including access to safe abortion services), and helps to develop a bigger pool of community health providers to supplement and support the National Health Insurance (NHI). Another iMobiMaMa focus is the provision of economic opportunities for unemployed youth and women in underserved communities.


Participant action research

iMobiMaMa has been working with The Grail Centre Trust in Kleinmond, in the Western Cape, on the research phase to understand the realities of providing health support in underserved communities, and to test design concepts. The Grail Centre Trust has been contracted by the provincial Health Department to provide home-based health care through a team of community health workers. Working with these community health workers, iMobiMaMa has held workshops and documented client visits to reach a deeper understanding of health workers’ and patients’ needs.

Daily diary CHW's twitter stream

Community health workers participating in iMobiMaMa’s pilot in Kleinmond will keep daily diaries recording responses to iMobiMaMa’s mobile health kit and service offerings.

reflective design development

Designing within complex socio-technical environments, particularly healthcare related initiatives, requires a high degree of reflection. In practice, this equates to an ongoing questioning and revising of design methodologies and technologies, and importantly, a reflection on the design team’s competence and ensuring that skills within the field are identified and employed into the design process as early as possible.



Design and mobile technology to reduce mother and baby deaths

On a frigidly cold Overberg morning, a computer room at the Grail Centre Trust in Kleinmond is heated by vivid red iMobiMaMa prototype health kits (mKits) as well as the intensity of community health workers grappling with the interactive design they’re testing to help reduce mother and baby deaths in…

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Introducing the mHub

iMobiMaMa conducted a training session with Community Health Workers (CHWs) in Kleinmond. The objective was to brief our partners, The Grail Centre Trust, on the planned pilot in Kleinmond, and to work with CHWs to test the efficacy of our online mHub programme. This session allowed us to do final…

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