The Mesij Project

Project: Adapting ‘Western’ Maternal Healthcare Text Messages To Indigenous Australian Culture

You are invited to participate in a research project. What the project aims to do is take a set of SMS maternal health messages, which are currently being used in South Africa and Bangladesh, and to translate these messages into a format which are culturally acceptable to pregnant Indigenous Australian women. The research is showing these messages are helping to educate pregnant women and leading to positive behaviour changes. We want to make these messages available to Indigenous Australian women.

What do you mean by ‘adapting messages’?

We have a set of universal maternal healthcare messages. This existing set of SMS text messages were developed by the Maternal Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), to address the issues of MDGs 4 and 5 in low-resource settings. Globally, the appropriate wording of these messages vary considerably. For example, in South Africa women need mosquito nets to prevent malaria, whereas this is not a problem in Australia. The messages need to be adapted to suite Indigenous Australian culture and conditions.

A MAMA behavior change message, for example, to encourage a nutritious diet during pregnancy, says:

“Eat well, so your baby will grow well. Try to eat some meat, eggs, bean or lentils every day and green vegetables and milk, yoghurt or soya” (MAMA, 2013, p. 3).

To discourage smoking:

“Smoking harms you and your baby. If you smoke, your baby could be born weak and catch infections easily. Stop smoking and avoid smoky places” (MAMA, 2013, p. 11).

To discourage alcohol consumption during pregnancy:

“Drinking alcohol is bad for you and your baby. It could make your baby weak and ill. Don’t drink in pregnancy” (MAMA, 2013, p. 9).

During the course of the research, senior Indigenous Australian women are asked to adapt these messages to suit pregnant Indigenous Australian women and healthcare professionals are asked to adapt the messages to the Australian healthcare system. Then, the messages will be tested on pregnant Indigenous Australian women, to see if they would follow the advice given.


We are seeking three groups of people to participate in an online review and testing of maternal health messages:

  1. Medical professionals: we need at least four medical professionals who work in the field of Indigenous Australian maternal health. This includes at least two midwives and two obstetricians. The purpose of this online review is to attain clinical accuracy of each SMS message, for use within Australian health systems. More specifically, you will be asked to (1) check the content is clinically correct for the target audience, (2) adapt messages to reflect local medical conditions and (3) add new messages that address local medical concerns.
  2. Senior Indigenous Australian women: we are also seeking at least 15 senior Indigenous Australian women to culturally approve messages for younger pregnant Indigenous Australian women. The purpose of the cultural review is to word messages in a culturally acceptable way, like it is coming from Aunty, Granny or Mum. This includes using culturally appropriate health care language, names for local food items and adapting messages to suit the local practices and beliefs. Members of this group are required to be Grandmothers, Auntie’s or Mothers, the traditional owners of ‘women’s business’.
  3. Pregnant Indigenous Australian women: we are also seeking at least 10 pregnant Indigenous Australian women between the ages of 16-30. These women represent the end-user so their opinions are critical to the success of the messages. Participants will be asked to consider whether they would follow the advice given, whether they like the ‘tone’ of the messages and provide possible suggestions for improvements.

Participation in all three groups require Internet access (which you already have if you’re reading this). A total of 120 SMS text messages have been posted on this website, which you can only access with a username and password, which will be issued to you upon your acceptance to the study. Each reviewer will have 1 month to review and comment. 120 messages may sound a lot but each message is less than 160 characters so it can be sent by SMS. As most of us are short of time, using this website allows for your participation at convenient times. All participants will be kept informed and their questions will be answered. We will also keep you informed through this website, of project results and any feedback received on the project. You may also receive the occasional reminder email.

Who we are


The project is being done through Charles Sturt University, under the supervision of Professor Stephen D’Alessandro, Associate Professor Maree Gruppetta and Dr. Michelle Evans. Maree and Michelle are both Indigenous Australian women. This research is part of a Ph.D project by Dr. Reece George, an Indigenous researcher. If there is anything you do not understand, or if you have questions, feel free to contact the researcher or his supervisors:

Thank you for considering this invitation.

Register to participate

Please register using the form below if you believe you fit the profile of one of the participant groups. Registration is approved manually, which may take up to 48 hours. In the meantime, we appreciate your patience.

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