News / Africa

    Mobile, Wireless Devices Save Lives, Money

    WHO survey finds opportunities and barriers for mHealth

    Mobile coverage is rapidly increasing in the developing world with 64 percent of the global market including rural areas.
    Mobile coverage is rapidly increasing in the developing world with 64 percent of the global market including rural areas.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Rosanne Skirble

    World Health officials have released the most comprehensive global survey to date of how mobile phones and other wireless communication technologies are improving health care delivery around the world.

    The World Health Organization survey notes that there are more than five billion mobile phone subscribers in the world today. That means more than eight out of 10 people around the world make use of the mobile devices.

    That's more people than have access to paved roads, electricity or the Internet, says Misha Kay, head of the World Health Organization’s Global Observatory for eHealth, which produced the report. Mobile technology, Kay says, is about more than just wireless phone calls.

    An estimated 2.2 billion mobile phone users - 64 percent of the market - are based in the developing world. In Uganda, more than a third of the population, about 10 million people, own a cell phone, according to WHO.
    An estimated 2.2 billion mobile phone users - 64 percent of the market - are based in the developing world. In Uganda, more than a third of the population, about 10 million people, own a cell phone, according to WHO.

    “And yes it can be used for health and it is starting to be used for health even in developing countries and our role is to make sure that we can communicate the message as to how it’s best used and how not to abuse it and where it could go in the future.”

    Using mobile phone service for health care

    The state and future of what’s known simply as “mHealth” is the focus of the Mobile Health Summit in Cape Town, South Africa, attended by leaders from the mobile phone and health care industries and representatives of public health and non-profit groups. The WHO report was released at the meeting.

    It notes that 83 percent of the 112 countries responding to the WHO survey report using mobile phone service for health care.

    “That in fact surprised us because we didn’t think that it would be so advanced," says Kay. "And within that 83 percent, we found that 70 percent of those countries were already running mHealth programs of between one and ten programs and 30 percent had 10-plus programs.”

    Among the 14 different types of mHealth activities cited, the most widely used were health call centers, emergency toll-free services and emergency- and disaster-response management. Kay says most other types of mHealth programs are in the pilot or informal stage.

    He says their growth - spurred by rapid technological advances and the declining costs of wireless telecommunications - is taking place independent of government and national or international aid agencies.

    Nursing students learn about the importance of technology at a hospital in a rural part of Tanzania.
    Nursing students learn about the importance of technology at a hospital in a rural part of Tanzania.

    “So the thought is, if we were to actively start funding projects in the developing world, we could go into a fairly strong exponential curve.”

    Saving lives

    Advocates say mHealth initiatives are saving lives. Mobile technology is extending the reach of rural health care services, improving the quality of care and reducing costs.  

    The WHO report highlights the mobile connections between doctors and patients in Ghana, the wireless collection of maternal health data in Senegal and the use instant text messaging to monitor disease outbreaks in Cambodia.

    But the technology is far from fully utilized. Kay says it was no surprise that half of the countries surveyed reported competing government priorities and a lack of technical knowledge about possible applications have limited their ability to set national policies that recognize and promote mHealth.  

    “We all need to see the results are positive and proven as positive," Kay says. "And at that point I think that we would see that governments will be far more likely to invest in these kinds of projects, particularly if they also can be shown that this approach is actually cost effective because, of course, the dollar is driving mHealth service and is the bottom line.”

    mHealth tool-kit

    The WHO is expanding its database of best mHealth practices and creating a practical how-to mHealth tool-kit. The information package is designed to help policy makers and partners in health care and mobile services develop new strategies for extending mHealth services wherever they can go.  

    “First of all getting countries to actually look at what their own health system priorities are," says Kay. "And then looking at how electronic health or eHealth can be integrated into the health system to provide support to existing services or future services within the health system.”

    The WHO mHealth tool kit is expected to be released later this year. The survey is available on the WHO website

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora