Mobile phones and infant health at birth

Luca Maria Pesando, Komin Qiyomiddin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is increasing evidence that digital technologies such as mobile phones have the potential to shape some of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as health, education, and nutrition, even among the most resource-deprived countries and communities in the world. Nonetheless, little research has focused on the intergenerational implications of digital technologies for infant health and wellbeing. This study leverages Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data from 29 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to explore associations between mothers’ ownership of mobile phones and their children’s health at birth, as measured by birth weight and low birth weight (LBW), i.e., weight lower than 2,500 grams. Infants born to women owning mobile phones fare consistently better in terms of birth weight, even after accounting for potential socioeconomic confounders and other sources of media or information in the household. Partly, mechanisms are consistent with the idea of broader knowledge and access to healthcare services, as associations are mediated by a higher number of antenatal visits, higher likelihood of having a birth assisted by a health professional, and by the extent to which mothers hear about family planning by text message. Associations are strongest among low-educated mothers. Also, associations are stronger in countries where infant health is poorer yet mobile-phone diffusion is higher, highlighting the comparatively higher potential of the diffusion of mobile phones for global development in poorest contexts. Our findings may be of interest to scholars and policymakers concerned with identifying relatively cheap policy levers to promote global health and wellbeing in disadvantaged contexts, particularly among women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0288089
JournalPloS one
Issue number9 September
StatePublished - Sep 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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