Behind the Scenes: Bringing a Commitment to Life

09/26/2011 03:17 pm ET | Updated Nov 26, 2011

As the world community gathers in New York, commitment-making is center stage in efforts to improve the health and lives of the world's poorest people. Donor governments are asked to make new commitments to non-communicable diseases. The UN Secretary General celebrates the one-year anniversary of the Global Strategy to Improve Women and Children's Health. At the Clinton Global Initiative, attendees report on commitments that have been made and offer additional ones.

Between commitment-making and updates on progress, what exactly happens? How does the private sector bring its unique expertise to the partnerships it forges? And, what is the connection to communities on the ground?

One year ago, Johnson & Johnson made a multi-year multi-million dollar commitment to save and improve the lives of 120 million women and children around the world by piloting innovative solutions and scaling up proven interventions. As part of this effort, Johnson & Johnson and USAID founded the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) along with supporting partners BabyCenter, the mHealth Alliance, and the United Nations Foundation to harness the power of mobile technology to deliver vital health information to new and expectant mothers, empowering them to make healthy decisions for themselves and their babies.

At the launch of the 7 Billion Actions Campaign, Imane Khachani reminded us that an educated woman is an empowered woman. It is easy to forget that many women around the world are never taught about pregnancy, about how their bodies will change, what they need to eat to help their babies grow and what to avoid to keep their babies safe. We take for granted that they know how many times they should visit a health worker during their pregnancy and the warning signs that indicate they should deliver in a facility. Sean Blaschke, lead of the UNICEF Uganda Tech4Dev team, noted that the one of the greatest challenges is getting pregnant women to come in for their four prenatal care visits. We underestimate how knowing that vaccines are in stock and available at the primary health clinic can motivate a mother to walk miles to ensure her baby receives care. Mobile technology allows us to reach expectant and new mothers with stage-based information through text and voice messages during pregnancy and baby's first year of life. I learned from Nancy Lublin from that texting has a 100 percent open rate and I am excited by how MAMA can transform the lives of low-income mothers who have access to a mobile phone.

Johnson & Johnson believes that our financial resources should be coupled with private sector expertise. Our company sees itself as a funder and thought-partner in the commitments we make. Innovative approaches necessitate out-of-the-box thinking; we bring our people to the table with other experts and our partners to think through and map out new approaches. We lend our business insights to frame monitoring and evaluation from both a health outcome and financial sustainability perspective.

With this perspective and approach, we work hand-in-hand with the other partners in MAMA to discuss what success will look like in three years. MAMA wants to create programs that are self-sustaining but also free or affordable. To accomplish this, MAMA will need metrics that demonstrate impact in terms of positive health outcomes and business effectiveness for mobile operators. As such, MAMA is tapping into Johnson & Johnson's experience in reaching consumers. These discussions are ongoing as MAMA plans for a launch in South Africa and pilots in Bangladesh.

The world needs more than money to solve our global health challenges. Rolling up one's sleeves to help figure out the solution is a commitment in itself -- one that is often invisible when financial commitments are made and the one that Johnson & Johnson embraces and strives to fulfill.

To learn more about our commitments to improve women and children's health, please visit