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Ball State profs to send texts to improve Burmese moms’ maternal health

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Two Ball State University professors are leading new efforts to help the Burmese community in Indianapolis.

Data shows about 19,000 Burmese refugees live in the city.

Coming from a place with limited access to health, research shows Burmese women see higher premature births and infants have lower birth weight. A series of texts could improve those odds.

For most people, their cellphone is never too far away. It’s that idea that got professors at Ball State University thinking about the best ways to get out maternal health information to Burmese refugees in Indianapolis.

“I did some research about the refugee community. Barely any research has been done regarding infant mortality in refugee communities so that is one of the reasons why I even started the study in the last year,” professor Mengxi Zhang said.

In a matter of months, they’ll start sending out text messages about maternal health to expecting Burmese refugees in Indiana. LUNA Language Services is doing the translations.

About two years ago, health science professor Zhang and her colleague Jean Marie Place started conducting research to measure maternal child health in the Burmese community.

“I feel like, in general, refugee communities have been ignored in a lot of health intervention projects because of their language barrier,” Zhang said.

According to research a third of Burmese women did not receive timely prenatal care in the first three months of their pregnancy and the majority of these women didn’t realize not getting it was a problem.

The project aims to improve knowledge about maternal and infant health while encouraging women to practice recommended health behaviors involving sleep, breastfeeding, early prenatal care and postpartum checkups.