A free texting service popular in the US designed to promote baby and maternal health is expanding to Russia by next fall. The service, named text4baby, aims to deliver essential health information to mothers and mothers-to-be who need it most - lower income women who often lack access to the Internet.

Health technology news site mobihealthnews.com reported on April 11 that the company has enrolled more than 157,000 users and delivered more than 12 million tips via mobile phone texting to mothers since its launch in February 2010, with the goal of reaching one million moms by 2012. The service, backed by the White House and major corporations such as Johnson & Johnson, announced its plans to expand to Russia via press release on April 7.

Text4baby has signed up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Resources and Services Administration, and American Academy of Pediatrics and offers up a range of tips, from immunization, nutrition, smoking cessation, and prenatal care.

Mobile health devices devised to help change behaviors, such as stopping smoking or losing weight, as well as to manage treatment programs for health conditions such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, are springing up everywhere. But whether or not they actually work is under hot debate. Text4baby's service is currently being studied to measured its effectiveness, while smoking apps have been getting mixed reviews from experts.

A new study published last month in the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that while the 47 smoking cessation apps reviewed fell short of the mark, they also did some things right, such as providing personal motivation.

Weight loss apps are also met with some criticism, with US experts from Wake Forest University recently reporting that they may help build awareness but aren't likely to change habits.

Read more about text4baby: http://www.text4baby.org/