A Virtual Safety Net


Living in rural areas can be isolating. Access to transportation, services, and community resources can be limited, exacerbating other challenges faced by women of color to have healthy pregnancies, births, and postpartum experiences. 

Texas State University professor Melinda Villagran, Ph.D., and other TSU faculty thought technology could be used to connect rural women to maternal health resources, while facilitating collaboration among health and social service agencies in Caldwell and Hays counties.

Melinda Villagran, Ph.D.
Professor, Texas State University
Photo by Casey Chapman-Ross, mural art by Kristen Gunn

Funding the system

With funding support from St. David’s Foundation Focus on the Fourth Women’s Health Initiative, the Texas State University Translational Health Research Initiative developed Networx in 2018.

Networx text messages serve as touchpoints for women in rural Hays and Caldwell counties. The free service highlights available resources geared specifically for underserved women, in addition to health information for mothers and their families, and invitations to free or low-cost community events. All of the messages include links to the Networx website, a clearinghouse of community resources in the region. 

Improving health outcomes

Villagran notes, “Technology enabled us to reach women and moms in a way that was never before possible. The connections we’ve created are game-changers in meeting the needs of our area’s underserved women,” many of whom are women of color.  

“Through access to information, three in five pregnancy-related health problems are preventable.”

“Connecting rural, isolated women to information was our goal, and we’re using technology to do that,”  Villagran explains.

“Through Networx, we’ve created a community of access,” she said, “a virtual safety net that expands women’s reach and ability to help themselves and their families.”  

Curating resources 

Networx also brings together numerous community resources through its website so that mothers have access to useful information about helping agencies. These include resources for food supplies, healthcare and baby care, finances, fitness, counseling and relationships, and continuing education – services through which women can improve the well-being of their families.   

“We’re telling moms — through every text — 
that we’re partners in motherhood.”

“We’re curators of local resources and information. Again, we’re connecting women to the services their families need,” Villagran says. “We’re telling moms — through every text — that we’re partners in motherhood.”  

“I regularly provide Networx as a resource to many clients. Clients have enjoyed seeing when there are free family events and appreciate access to health related resources.”
– Family Violence/Sexual Assault Advocate in San Marcos

Learn more about Networx.