Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, with 99% of all cases occurring in developing countries. In 2015, close to 6 million children under the age of 5 years died, with more than half of cases being due to conditions that could have been prevented. Inadequate resources prevent access to maternal and child care in many developing countries, delaying detection of developmental abnormalities. In addition to increasing access to healthcare, communication is key to improving early detection of abnormalities, and could contribute to the health and well-being of women, children and their communities.
The Nairobi-based startup Totohealth use mobile technology to help reduce maternal and child mortalty. They have developed a platform where parents can register and receive timely messages through SMS based on the stage of pregnancy or child’s age. These educative and informative messages highlight warnings signs in the pregnancy or child’s health, enabling them to seek timely care. The messages covers various subjects including schedule reminders for appointments and vaccinations, nutrition and family planning advice. One unique feature also offers a two-way communication system where parents can interact with a panel of doctors for expert advice. By doing so, clinics are able to easily map mothers due to deliver and ensure safe delivery, as well as easily detect development abnormalities early to increase the benefits of interventions. In addition, the data collected from parents can be analyzed to enhance decision and policy making.
The idea of the technology emerged when one of the startup’s co-founders, Felix Kimaru, spent time volunteering in the maternal sector. He realized that many interventions were happening far too late to have any chance of improving medical conditions among parents and children. Totohealth was born, and are today active in both Kenya and Tanzania, with over 30,000 subscribers of the service. They have also developed Totopack, a delivery kit containing essential items that a doctor, a mother and child would use during delivery, and Totobox, that has 17 life-saving commodities for the first 90 days of a newborn’s life.
It is unacceptable that about 800 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. The risk is greatest in sub-Saharan Africa, and in Kenya alone, 300 children and 20 women die every day from preventable conditions associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Totohealth is revolutionizing the maternal and child health industry by leveraging mobile technology, allowing parents to monitor the development of the child, and linking them to the right health care service providers or specialized care, treatment and guidance. They have taken one of the most pressing challenges that we face today and developed an innovative solution that put the parents and their child in focus. It increase access to, and enable parents to seek timely care, making interventions more effective. In fact, the startup managed to reduce maternal mortality from 31 out of 100 down to 18 in one sub-county in Kenya. The technology could revolutionize maternal and infant health services in low-resource settings, having a significant impact on parents, children and their community.
Totohealth has gained much recognition and won multiple awards, including the Nominet Trust 2015, the Innovations Award at the Connected Summit, Start Tel Aviv competition 2016, and a $15,000 grant in the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. The startup raised in 2015 $60,000 from Indigo Trust, Spark International and an angel investor, and in late 2016 announced they had raised another $100,000 from Safaricom and Streams Capital. They were in the first accelerator class of the Mobile Impact Ventures program early 2014, and was a finalist at PIVOT East, an annual pitching competition, before securing incubation space at the m:lab Business Incubation. The startup has also been part of the digital health accelerator Merck, the Unreasonable East Africa Institute, as well as SPRING accelerator.