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

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid