Philani Mentor Mothers Project

Western Cape, South Africa

The Philani Mentor Mothers Project was initiated in 2008 to evaluate the effectiveness of a maternal and child health support programme in disadvantaged communities in Cape Town, South Africa. The project utilized Mobenzi Researcher and a custom web based platform linked to Mobenzi Researcher to support the operation needs of the project, including visit scheduling and supervision, tracking of visit frequency and duration, as well as enhancing the accuracy and operational requirements of data collection.

This relates significantly to the UN’s Millennium Development Goal 4 to reduce child mortality rates by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015 and to Goal 6 which aims to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases such as tuberculosis.

Mentor Mothers provide support to pregnant mothers within their communities by rendering visits which take place from pregnancy through early childhood. Mentor Mothers are selected based on the principle of positive peer deviants – they are mothers who themselves come from the same adverse circumstances as other mothers in their community, yet they have still managed to raise a healthy child despite their often impoverished circumstances

Mentor Mother training is an intensive 3 to 4 week course which is composed of theory, group work, discussion, demonstration, counselling skills, and practical case work relating to a diverse range of topics, including but not limited to: the prevention and management of HIV, antenatal and neonatal care; maternal and infant nutrition and feeding; alcohol related behaviour; and child health.

"Mobenzi Researcher facilitates management of fieldworkers as well as high data quality."

The home visits are designed to be both supportive and educational in nature. They are intended to empower pregnant mothers to better protect the health of their families by accessing available clinic services, implementing preventive behaviours in daily life routines, and sustaining preventive behaviours over time.

The study takes place in 24 neighbourhood clusters, located across two peri-urban settlements on the outskirts of Cape Town, which are stratified into 12 matched pairs of neighbourhood clusters – each pair matched in size, infrastructure and government services. Each pair is randomly divided across intervention and control conditions, resulting in a control group of 12 neighbourhood clusters where pregnant mothers and children simply have access to the standard government clinic services which are available, and an intervention group of 12 neighbourhood clusters where mothers receive the community based home-visit intervention in addition to standard government services.

Mobenzi Researcher Implementation

Since 2008, the on-going study objective has been to evaluate the effectiveness of the home-visit intervention. Longitudinal health outcome data is collected by an independent team of researchers who conduct assessments and interviews with all mothers and infants from both intervention and control neighbourhoods.

A baseline assessment is taken of all pregnant mothers during pregnancy, and a follow up assessments made 6 days post birth, and again when the infants are 6, 18 and 36 months old.

The study invites all childbearing women from the intervention study neighbourhoods to join the intervention programme; the main outcomes of the research will be measured by the degree to which Mentor Mothers are able to improve the health of the mothers.

Utilising the Mobenzi Researcher API, a dedicated web management console was developed to assist in the storage of research data, and detailed tracking of interactions of Mentor Mothers with pregnant mothers.

Each Mentor Mother is equipped with an entry-level mobile phone. At each visit, a simple survey is completed, where the amount of contact time spent with the mother and topics discussed are captured.

This information is processed by the Philani console to provide real-time information on mothers requiring additional attention and to ensure an accurate assessment of whether the intervention programme is effective can be made once research outcomes are evaluated.


By allowing Mentor Mothers to capture data in the field and have activity logged, interpreted and graphically displayed, supervisors are able to assess progress at a glance. In addition to interaction tracking, visit schedules are automatically generated for Mentor Mothers and other data collectors. These aspects reduce the logistics burden on this large scale project.

Critically, the project demonstrates that - should the intervention programme prove to be effective in its objectives - it has the ability to scale. This would not be possible without the use of mobile technology to automate the logistical planning required to facilitate widespread roll-out.

About Philani

"The Philani Child Health & Nutrition Project has changed the lives of thousands of women and children in disadvantaged communities on the outskirts of Cape Town. Many of whom are the poorest of the poor - children suffering from malnutrition, mothers who are struggling to find any food at all to feed their families. Philani has provided life and hope with great commitment and loyalty since 1979." - Desmond Tutu

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