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.
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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

Alaskans experiencing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more frequent and extensive wildfires, deteriorating glaciers, and swift shoreline erosion More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs