News / Africa

Using Technology to Improve Healthcare

The 4th mHealth Summit brings over 4,000 participants from 50 countries to Washington, D.C. area.
The 4th mHealth Summit brings over 4,000 participants from 50 countries to Washington, D.C. area.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
This week (12/3-5), over 4,000 people from 50 countries have gathered near Washington, D.C. to discuss how mobile technology is affecting healthcare. Organizers of the mHealth Summit say some of the biggest advances and initiatives are taking place in low and middle income countries.


The 4th annual mHealth Summit brings together experts from the private sector, NGOs, governments and the technology industry. Organizers call it the mHealth ecosystem.

Patricia Mechael is executive director of the mHealth Alliance, which aims to mainstream the use of mobile technologies to address critical health issues.

“In the world, there are six billion mobile phone subscriptions in a population of seven billion people. And the most rapidly growing markets are those in developing countries. Africa, as a continent, you have widespread adoption where three or four years ago the penetration rates were 20 percent or 30 percent and now they’re getting upwards of 60 percent in some countries,” she said.

A lot of work is being done to use mobile technologies for maternal and child health.

“Earlier work had been to look at mobile technologies and HIV and AIDS. And so we have some great evidence on the use of mobile for things like treatment adherence and compliance and care management. And increasingly, it’s being used to address everything from malaria to tuberculosis to just general strengthening of the health system,” she said.

Also attending the mHealth Summit is Kirsten Gagnaire, global director of the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, also known as MAMA. It’s a public/private partnership launched by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011. It Includes USAID, Johnson & Johnson Company, the United Nations Foundation and the mHealth Alliance.

“There’s about 800 women a day globally, and about three million babies every year that die from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes. And most of those deaths are preventable, and most of those deaths occur in the developing world. And the kinds of reasons these deaths occur are from not having basic information again about how to care for themselves when women need to seek care, and how to give care to their infants,” said Gagnaire.

She said MAMA sends messages to mobile phones to educate women about their health.

“We have a set of messages that cover pregnancy and the first year of a baby’s life. And these messages are overseen by a very high level global health medical advisory board. And then we have guidelines to help countries take these basic sets of messages and really localize them for their local context,” she said.

Patricia Mechael of the mHealth Alliance said those messages can be text or voicemail.

“For example, you can have a pregnant woman in Bangladesh registered into a system that provides messages that are timed to her pregnancy that can help her know what to do, when to do certain things. And then when to go in for specific treatment issues, or prevention care like immunizations and that sort of thing,” she said.

She added, however, the mHealth field can be fragmented in providing services.

“One of the areas that we’re really advocating for [is] the development of national strategies and policies, standards, that can help bring some sense and sensibility to all of the work that’s happening on the ground. And so just really encouraging, whether it’s policymakers or donors, to really think systematically about how their investments are going to fit in with everything that is happening in this space,” she said.

Gagnaire, of the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Health, said internet access in developed countries can be taken for granted.

“A lot of people in the developed world believe that everyone has access to the Internet. But if you think about what it means to have access to the Internet – you’ve got to be able to do a search – you have to be able to read through thousands of entries that come back to you on Google, for example, and then figure out what that information means to you. And that’s not something that someone in a poor, illiterate or semi-literate kind of situation can do,” she said.

She said health messages may not only be sent to the pregnant woman, for example, but to her husband and mother-in-law so they too understand what needs to be done.

Organizers of the mHealth Summit said one of the major challenges is integrating an “overwhelming stream of continuous information” into health systems and patient care.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid