Though improvements in infant and maternal mortality rates have occurred over time, women and children still die every hour from preventable causes. Various regional, social and economic factors are involved in the ability of women and children to receive adequate care and prevention services. Patient-held maternal and/or child health records have been used for a number of years in many countries to help track health risks, vaccinations and other preventative health measures performed. Though these records are primarily designed to record patient histories and healthcare information and guide healthcare workers providing care, because the records are patient-held, they also allow families a greater ability to track their own health and prevention strategies.
A literature search was performed to answer these questions: (1) What are maternal information needs regarding pregnancy, post-natal and infant healthcare, especially in developing countries? (2) What is known about maternal information seeking behavior in developing countries? (3) What is the history and current state of maternal and/or child patient-held healthcare records, do they provide for the information needs of the healthcare provider and what are the effects and outcomes of patient-held records in general and for maternal and/or child health in particular?
Specific information needs of pregnant women and mothers are rarely studied. The small numbers of maternal information behavior results available indicate that mothers, in general, prefer to receive health information directly from their healthcare provider as opposed to from other sources (written, etc.) Overall, in developing countries, patient-held maternal and/or child healthcare records have a mostly positive effect for both patient and care provider. Mothers and children with records tend to have better outcomes in healthcare and preventative measures. Further research into the information behaviors of pregnant women and mothers to determine the extent of reliance on interpersonal information seeking is recommended before expending significant resources on enhanced patient-held maternal and/or child healthcare records including storage on mobile devices. In particular, research is needed to explore the utility of providing targeted health messages to mothers regarding their own health and that of their children; this might best be accomplished through mobile technologies.