Text messages will be used to encourage healthy lifestyles for new mothers from early next year.
The new approach will help reach families from communities who can slip through the cracks of the health system, Auckland District Health Board Maori health manager Naida Glavish says.
It is part of a wider $1.6 million government programme investing in a healthy eating message for Waitemata and central Auckland's hardest-to-reach new mums and families.
Pregnant women and young mums who register for the free service will receive texts encouraging them to make healthy lifestyle choices during and after pregnancy.
"Texting is a really effective way of getting the message across. A phone call is easy to ignore but people can always find time to read a text," Mrs Glavish says.
The texts will include reminders and advice for different stages of pregnancy and provide support for breastfeeding mums.
There is no need to be particularly tech-savvy for it to be effective, she says.
The service will be rolled out in a number of languages early in the new year.
Health Minister Tony Ryall says the scheme is similar to one where text messaging is used to help people quit smoking.
The service has been found to double quit rates and has been implemented as a Ministry of Health-funded national service, he says.
The texts for healthy eating services is part of an effort by community health groups and the Waitemata and Auckland district health boards to work together to help families to access antenatal, postnatal and infant services.
The $1.6 million in funding, which is to be spread over two years, is designed to prevent obesity, Mr Ryall says.
Group education programmes will cover breastfeeding support, shopping on a budget, healthy cooking methods and exercise.
Being overweight during pregnancy can lead to serious problems for mothers, such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew says.
It can also have adverse health outcomes for the child.
"Evidence suggests the elders of a family or community can have significant influence on the dietary and lifestyle choices made by younger mums - and that they don't always do so correctly," she says.
The texts will be backed up by radio adverts to make sure the benefits of healthy eating and exercise for mums and babies is properly conveyed.
Funding for the health promotion programme is from within the Ministry of Health's existing budget and the project will be fully evaluated to see if it should be rolled out further.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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