CARSON CITY - Immunize Nevada and the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health gathered today at the Carson Tahoe Women's Health Institute for a press event to educate Nevadans about Text4baby and to encourage expecting and first time mothers to do something for themselves this Mother's Day and enroll in Text4baby.

The speakers, including Senator Ben Kieckhefer, from Washoe District 16; Vickie Ives, a representative from the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health; and Julia Peek, a mother of two and Text4baby user, spoke about the benefits of the program in helping build strong Nevada families.

Whether pregnant, or navigating a newborn's first year of life, many new moms have questions and concerns. While Nevada is doing well in several areas, education is key to improving critical health challenges such as preterm birth rate, where 2012 CDC data ranks Nevada 7th nationally. Text4baby offers resources to those who may not have access to good prenatal or postpartum care, and ideally connects them to people and programs that can help them.

Since its inception in 2010, Nevada's Text4baby utilization rate includes more than 8,500 mothers. Messages they receive address factors involved in preterm birth such as smoking, substance abuse, environmental hazards, and many others. In addition, data indicate that some populations' preterm birth rate exceeds the state rate and Text4baby can help reach underserved populations with key health information. Insurance can also be a factor. Between 2009 and 2011, per March of Dimes, Nevada ranked 51st for children under 19 without health insurance (17.6%) and 46th for women 15-44 without health insurance (28%). Text4baby provides Nevada-specific public and private insurance enrollment information.

Parents can also enroll in appointment reminders based on their newborn's birthday, which can be critical to keeping track of well baby visit and vaccination reminders. Although immunization rates improved in 2012, 35% of Nevada children aged 19-35 months still were not fully immunized with the recommended childhood vaccines according to 2012 National Immunization Survey results.

A number of studies demonstrate that mobile health interventions like Text4baby can increase health knowledge and preparedness:

• A joint California State University, San Marcus/University of California San Diego study showed that 74% of total respondents reported Text4baby messages informed them of medical warning signs they were not aware of. In that same study, 65% of total respondents reported Text4baby helped them remember to get an immunization that they or their child needed.

• A George Washington University study found that Text4baby subscribers were nearly three times more likely to believe that they were prepared to be new mothers compared to those in the no exposure control group.

Women who sign up for the service by texting BABY to 511411 (or BEBE for texts in Spanish) receive three free SMS text messages each week timed to their due date or baby's date of birth. These messages focus on a variety of topics critical to maternal and infant health, including birth defects prevention, immunization, nutrition, seasonal flu, mental health, oral health, safe sleep, and more. Text4baby messages also connect women to prenatal and infant care services and other resources.

According to the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, each year in the U.S., more than 500,000 babies are born prematurely and an estimated 28,000 children die before their first birthday. The infant mortality rate in the U.S. is one of the highest in the industrialized world, and for the first time since the 1950s, that rate is on the rise. Research shows more than 85 percent of Americans own a cell phone and 72 percent of cell users send or receive text messages.

Text4baby is made possible through a broad, public-private partnership that includes government, corporations, academic institutions, professional associations, non-profit organizations, and more.