Omomi ‘foot ambassadors’: our game changers

‘Omomi’ means ‘my child’ in the Yoruba dialect of South-Western Nigeria. The name of our innovation is apt because the OMOMI app is designed with children’s health needs in mind. The innovation is a mobile platform that is modelled to address all of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Childhood Survival Strategies.

OMOMI has a rapidly growing user base of nearly 10,000 women, and it has been a life-saver for hundreds of mothers across the world, not only Nigeria. The success of OMOMI, particularly the SMS service, has been due to the support of our partners, especially the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Center for Health Market innovations (CHMI). When we first launched OMOMI, we encountered a lot of scepticism from our target beneficiary. Many mothers were more used to ‘traditional’ avenues of accessing health information from in-person consultations with clinical personnel. This led to a low uptake of the services offered by the platform. We sought to develop a marketing strategy that would generate demand for our services and increase our user base. With this in mind, we applied for CHMI’s Learn and Launch program, and with the help our peers, developed an out-of-the box marketing approach that focused on our foot ambassadors, with the aim of rapidly increasing our user base.

During CHMI’s Learn and Launch, we realized we needed to rethink our remuneration package for our OMOMI ambassadors as we were Better health for women in Nigeria - Omomi foot ambassadors meet mothers at health campswitnessing high turnover and low staff motivation to register mothers. From the kick-off meetings and conversations with both experts and peers, we created our current incentive package as part of a new marketing approach, which we then tested. The results have been excellent—in just four months, we were able to surpass our goal of subscribing 4,000 mothers by 128%.

Our new marketing approach focused on the recruitment and training of young people who work as ‘foot (brand) ambassadors’ for OMOMI. This has turned out to be a game-changer for us. These young people are mostly university undergraduates who are trained to work closely with local primary health centres to sign up women on the OMOMI SMS platform. OMOMI ambassadors typically have little to no prior medical experience before taking on the job, a deliberate choice we made as an organization as we learned that individuals with such skills were not easily available. The Nigerian healthcare space is full of understaffed, overworked, underpaid employees and medical personnel, who are frequently owed salaries and are largely unwilling to want to undertake any extra responsibility. We instead required our foot ambassadors to carry the following qualities: enthusiastic, personable, willing to learn and hardworking as such individuals were guaranteed to succeed in their role. To retain our ambassadors, we had to develop and provide an attractive remuneration package based on the number of women registered. The grant allowed us to increase the initial amount we were paying our ambassadors as well as provide small bonuses based on performance. We hope to build in this incentive structure in our business model as a necessary cost crucial to the success of our program.

To compliment this new approach, we expanded our community outreach program to give the OMOMI ambassadors access to large numbers of women to register. The medical outreach program, OMOMI Reachout Project, offers free medical services to mothers and children in hard-to-reach communities. We host medical camps in communal spaces such as community town halls, large markets and even religious institutions like churches, bringing medical services to the communities and mothers to the OMOMI ambassadors—a win/win situation.

In Nigeria, OMOMI foot ambassadors register mothers and children at health campsSometimes, it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel, but rather to build off or adapt a solution that has worked for another program. As an organization, we are actively seeking out additional opportunities to learn from a network of peers given the value of our experience through the Learn and Launch. I would therefore want to encourage more of my peers to take advantage of peer networks to learn from each other.