Influence of Short Message Service Reminders on Utilisation of Focused Antenatal Care Among Women in Rural Kenya: A Randomised Controlled Trial
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Background/Aims The short message service is a part of mobile health, which is defined as medical and public health practices that are supported by mobile devices, such as mobile phones, personal digital assistants, and other wireless devices. Mobile health has documented positive outcomes on other health services, including focused antenatal care. The focused antenatal care model emphasises quality of care rather than quantity of antenatal visits, and the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of four targeted antenatal visits. This study examines the influence of short message service reminders on utilisation of focused antenatal care in rural Kenya. Methods This was a randomised controlled trial with 118 respondents in each of two study arms, intervention and control, conducted in Tharaka Nithi, Kenya. The study group were pregnant women attending their first antenatal care visit in Tharaka subcounty health facilities. The intervention was three short message service reminders a week before the scheduled visit. Structured questionnaires were used to collect baseline and exit interviews. The chi-square test and logistic regression were used to check associations between uptake of antenatal care and participant characteristics at 5% significance level. Results Three quarters (75%) of the respondents in the intervention group completed the four targeted antenatal visits, whereas only 10% of respondents attended the required four visits in the control group. None of the sociodemographic variables were found to have any association or influence on focused antenatal care attendance. Short message reminders increased the chances of attending the recommended visits by 27 times (P<0.001). Conclusions Short message service reminders have a positive influence on utilisation of focused antenatal care. This research paper recommends that policymakers and health managers use short message service reminders to increase the uptake of focused antenatal care.