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

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora