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Free Midwife Hotline

A free 24/7 hotline operated by volunteer midwives and doulas

Photo of Avi Solomon
13 19

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A free 24/7 hotline can be operated by volunteer midwives and doulas. Women can call, sms, chat, skype or email: whatever is at hand to get their problem across. The volunteer midwives, doulas, nurses or doctors could respond live or reply to pending messages.

168 volunteers are needed to provide a 24/7 service every week (if each volunteer donates 1 hour/week). A shared Google calender can be used to sync between the volunteers. Midwives on Missions of Service (MOMS) is an operational non-profit service that can be consulted for guidance. Retired medical personnel could be enlisted to help out.

The Lokarpit Voice Forum, developed by Randy Wang, is already operational. Let's get him on board to make this work!

I've added mp3 files below of a real question and answer call from the Lokarpit Voice database to give a taste of what's possible.

Childline India is an amazing inspiration already operational in the field that can also be built upon for providing a maternal health hotline:

Free Midwife Hotline, a preliminary specification for a frugal implementation:

-The Free Midwife Hotline will initially be staffed by qualified volunteer midwives recruited from anywhere in the world.

-Gmail and Google Calendar would be the core tools for coordinating the volunteers.

-Skype would be used to make calls to the pregnant mothers. Remember that incoming calls are free to the recipient in India.

-The pregnant mothers can use multiple means to send their message: SMS, toll-free phone call, email, instant messaging, Skype, Facebook group and Twitter.

-Volunteers sign up on a shared Google calender, they will receive an email alert bout their appointment.

-All volunteers share a common username ("Midwife Hotline") to be used when on duty to login to Gmail and Skype.

-Volunteers reply to pending messages or deal with live calls when on duty.

-Each call or message is recorded and logged as a topic on a dedicated Google group. This is critical for followup and rebroadcasting exemplary messages.

-Pregnant mothers can call in to listen to a navigable library of previously recorded exemplary messages on various maternal heath topics available in their native language.

-Pregnant mothers can subscribe to a dedicated SMS Channel and have a group chat option available.

-Calls and messages will be flagged for level of urgency.

-Volunteers must try to verify identity of message recipients when calling back.

-Volunteers will know how to activate local medical personnel and welfare organizations.

-The Free Midwife Hotline will be promoted by word of mouth, targeted outreach, existing maternal heath networks and by celebrity endorsements in print, radio and TV.

What is the minimum level of mobile technology needed for this concept?

Gmail and Google Calendar, Skype, Netbook, Smartphone, Phone

How could this work in a low-literacy context?

Employ simple to remember phone numbers, pregnancy icons, targeted phone calls and radio ads in the local language. Use Bollywood movie stars to promote the service on TV.

Which partners could help realise and deliver this solution?

  • Oxfam
  • Nokia
  • Mobile operators
  • NGOs
  • Government
  • Other - Feel free to elaborate in your description of the concept

Concept Builds

I would like to apply to develop this concept using the Google for Nonprofits program:

Virtual Team

Randy Wang, Sarah Fathallah, Justin Kim, Robyn Sneeringer, Marie Leznicki, Vincent Cheng, Tanja Rosenqvist, Ian Sullivan


Join the conversation:

Photo of Obey'Kiia ShawtyBhadd

i was thinking that a midwife can give me advice on what i may have done wrong , when it came down to me inseminating myself

Photo of An Old

I was thinking that maybe the volunteer midwives and doulas could also be connected to a network of locally based midwives or doctors. If an extreme emergency happens the vocal assistance form the telephone volunteers may not be enough. Then the volunteers can be the gatekeeper to a local professionel who can get to the woman in need within maybe an hour or two. Of course the local professionel should only be contacted in extreme emergencies.

With regards to the network needed for operating the system. A perfect solution would create the opportunity for the volunteers to volunteer while at home doing his/her everyday routines. On person at the phone at a time is probably not enough. Letting them work from home could maybe make it possible to work two hours a week. So, the volunteer should be able to "log on" to the system from home and phone calls from people in need should then be directed to the volunteers private phone. When the shift ends the volunteer can "log off" the system again. It should be possible to solve this with a computer system that the volunteers can call to so that the volunteers do not need any equipment in their private homes.

Photo of Ian

How can this idea become something that offers both general advice but can also be rolled out to fit the most pressing times? Dealing with an emergency situation is a great challenge but also the most vital aspect of this issue. Can this concept offer both that 'NHS Direct' and Samaritan style support and advice from a call centre but can it connect up to provide the most important assistance to mothers and babies.

Agree with @OpenIDEO on what they add.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hey there Avi!

Congratulations for being one of our top 20 finalists in the Maternal Health challenge! We really like your idea of a free 24/7 hotline operated by volunteer midwives and doulas.

As part of this Refine phase, we're urging you to dive deeper in the details of your concept and give some thought to more of details involved, perhaps that mash-up some of your cited examples for our particular context.

You may consider how the hotline might be centralised and monitored plus how training, quality assurance and consistency could be covered. And in what ways pregnant women would find out and initiate contact to take part.

We encourage you to work with
Sarah and Justin so you can build a stronger concept together.

When you're ready to update your concept, please click the 'Update this' button on the right-hand-side of your concept and fill out our 2 new fields:
+ Concept Builds – Here you can list additional builds on your concept
+ Virtual Team – Here you can credit others in the community who have contributed to your concept.

Cheers from the OpenIDEO Team!

Photo of Vincent

Avi, very glad to see your Lokarpit voice concept make it as a final concept. And Robin, wow, great insights & ideas around maintaining privacy on shared phones, incorporating volunteer community members, and continuing communication, based on your direct experience! Just wanted to point out that diagnostic checklists/charts may also be a helpful supplement for volunteers. And maybe a interactive self-diagnosing voice service option (for callers who want immediate information, and to decrease the load on volunteers), would be a helpful future add-on (see Siri's concept here: ).

Photo of Maria

Hey Avi - it would be great if there was a group chat or FAQ option for women too. I feel like sometimes they're either shy or unsure of what to ask. It would be great for them to have the opportunity to listen to what other people are thinking.

Photo of An Old

No problem! You know what else you could do? You could add a personalized SMS component to the system. For example, once a woman calls in to get an answer to her quesiton, you could include a short pregnancy history and tailor reminder messages regarding prenatal visits, local providers, and other health related messages!

Photo of Avi

Thanks Robyn for your insightful suggestions! I will integrate your ideas and have added you as a virtual team member for this concept.

Photo of An Old

Hello Avi! I have worked on a few hotline projects throughout Africa and Latin America and have a couple of things you might want to consider. (1) For rural/remote areas, one thing we have seen is the issue of privacy (in my case it is for reproductive health information/contraception, etc..) - in some remote areas in Nigeria women buy time on a community phone; in cases where midwives or doula's have to follow-up with a caller-- there are issues with other community members finding out about the content of the call. One idea we've had is to have a messaging system for these remote areas where callers would receive a special passcode and could receive private messages with out fear that others could access this information (the same idea could be applied to a family phone too, I suppose). (2) To make the concept even more feasible—why not have volunteers be trained community members? If you have a standard set of questions that are typically asked by callers, community members can be trained to provide information and direct women to services; this need not be just midwives and doulas. Rather, you could probably limit the number of professional midwives needed by having a “midwife on call” to deal with questions that are beyond the hotline operators ability or if there are more in-depth clinical questions.

Photo of Richard and Elly

Avi, this is a really clever idea, and it can be done.

Photo of Vincent

Hi Avi, Lokarpit looks like a well thought out technology. 2 things about it I just wanted to point out that aren't immediately obvious: 1) questioners can automatically recieve automated reply messages/calls at the time of their choosing, 2) answerers can choose to reuse previously recorded answers for commonly repeated questions.

Photo of Aaron

I think our ideas can work together really well!

Photo of Meena

Wow Avi – the mp3 file really helps paint the picture of how engaging this could be.