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International Partnership Aims To Use Mobile Technology To Help Mothers

Amid an ongoing debate over American foreign aid, the U.S. Agency for International Development and Johnson & Johnson hope to harness mobile technology to help new and expectant mothers around the world.

The effort, announced Tuesday, aims to spread health information to women in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa. A similar program, called text4baby, was launched in the United States last year.

"If we are going to improve public health across the developing world, our solutions must be focused on reaching the hard to reach with health information they otherwise would not receive," USAID Administrator Raj Shah said in a statement. "This partnership will harness the power of mobile technology to provide mothers with information about pregnancy, childbirth, and the first year of life, empowering these women to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families."

The $10 million program, called the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, comes as congressional Republicans increasingly take aim at foreign aid. Some policy makers question spending millions of dollars overseas while running up debts at home.

Freshman Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has called for an end to all such spending and GOP budgets have proposed reducing State Department and aid spending by almost a third, although actual cuts have been a fraction of that so far.

United States Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra said the mobile phone effort will help create more effective ways to use mobile technology to improve the health of women and children.

"This is an exciting approach to using technological innovation to address development challenges," he said.

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