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

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs