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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid