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Seattle parties to help ‘Mobile Moms’ in Timor-Leste | 

Melinda Gates was there. Supermodel Christy Turlington was there.

So were a thousand or two others, Seattle’s young humanitarians who started a Saturday evening bash with talks about maternal health but ended it with loud, thumping dance music.

Tom Paulson

Partying for a purpose at Agency 2012

This annual Seattle do-gooder event at McCaw Hall, sponsored by the Washington Global Health Alliance and formerly known as Party With A Purpose, is aimed at raising awareness among young people of critical issues in global health and also raising funds for a specific cause — all combined with some serious partying.

Now called Agency, this year’s event sought to educate the glam crowd of young do-gooders (and a few not-so-glam older folks like me) about the threat of maternal mortality and some of the efforts underway to increase safety of childbirth in poor countries.

The Seattle organization Health Alliance International, which recently launched a Mobile Moms text messaging service aimed at improving maternal health in Timor-Leste, is the beneficiary of the funds raised by the event’s ticket sales (which looked to be at least $40,000. Last year’s fund-raising focus was on the Infectious Disease Research Institute‘s TB work, which raised $34,000).

Tom Paulson

Susan Thompson of HAI's Timor-Leste program

“The idea is to use mobile phones, through text messaging, to get them the information they need for healthy births,” said Susan Thompson, head of the Timor-Leste program for HAI. The long-term goal, Thompson said, is to use this project to further her organization’s broader aim of strengthening the tiny country’s overall health system.

Because of the ubiquity of cell phones in even poor communities (Thompson said they did a survey and discovered 69% of the women had phones, and nearly all texted regularly), the idea is to test in Timor-Leste if reproductive health messaging using text messages sent to pregnant women will improve health outcomes.

“So-called ‘mHealth’ projects are very popular but we need to determine if they really work,” Thompson said.

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