This month, I had the opportunity to attend the mhealth summit 2011. In this summit attendees came together to learn, share and discuss the power and potential of mobile technology to address global and maternal health issues. It has ended with exciting and innovative ways of using technology for global health. It was interesting to learn about ongoing innovations in maternal and newborn health from different parts of the world. I congratulate all those working on maternal health issues, and look forward to celebrate the growth of such programs. Several experts in the field presented their experiences of implementing mHealth projects. The mobile phone solution contributes a major role in achieving MDG 4&5 and it should be considered by maternal health policy makers in developing countries. I would like to share some studies presented by the speakers in mhealth summit emphasizing on the importance of mobile phones in addressing MDG 4 & 5.
Mobile based data management system:
During the Summit I came across the MoTech Project implemented in one of the sub-districts of Ghana which has a population of 18,000. Dr. John discussed that they implemented mobile based health intervention to have desired outcomes and to address MDG 4&5. The team developed a simplified system for clinical data collection by using open source software. The system generates monthly reports which would otherwise take four/five days for the nurses to generate manually. Health workers are using inexpensive phones to capture data.
Infant nutrition through cell phone technology:
Rohit Chaudary, PHD student from Washington University, discussed the system that worked with cell phone technology with the simplicity of a low-tech flash-heating pasteurization process. This process ensures that breast milk donated to feed vulnerable infants is free of bacteria and viruses, including HIV, while retaining its nutritional value. The temperature sensing a cell phone technology has been developed to accurately monitor and validate temperatures during flash-heating.
Mobile phone based Integrated management of Childhood Illness(IMCI):
Marc Mitchell, head of D-tree (started back in 2004) discussed a study conducted in Tanzania. D-Tree team did a trial by putting IMCI on phones. Results showed that Health workers following IMCI on Cell phones performed better than health workers who used paper based IMCI. It was also observed that a correct diagnosis was given by electronic IMCI more consistently than the paper based system.
Mobile phone technology as a community based intervention improving exclusive Breastfeeding:
Dr. Leena Dhande discussed the effectiveness of cell phone technology as a community based intervention to improve exclusive Breastfeeding and to reduce infant mobility rates. A randomized control trial was conducted in India in which participating mothers were split into two groups. One group of mothers received counseling at a facility while another group received counseling on their mobile phone. The primary outcome was a unprecedented high of 95.9% of mothers exclusively breast feeding their babies for six months in the mobile phone group compared to only 67.4% of mothers in the control group. This is a highly significant result which has been hidden, not to be reported.
Mobile Phone-Based Counseling Intervention in Postponing Subsequent Pregnancy Amongst Teen Mothers :
Adolescent mothers in Washington, DC have a high rate of subsequent teen pregnancies. Girl Talk is targeting these teens to promote awareness in their mentoring program. They provide training workshops and group discussions for high school girls on gender related issues, including eating disorders and sexual harassment and interests in continuing school.
Mobile phones for health care on maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality:
Dr. Azzah presented a study that aims to examine the beneficial impact of the use of mobile phones for health care on maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality, and to seek innovative ways to ensure access of skilled attendance at delivery through an intervention called “wired mothers”. The results were not that significant amongst rural communities. On policy implication, after this result the ministry of health considered to have this wired mother intervention implicated on a national scale, in all districts of Tanzania.
Mobile based data management system:
A study was shared focusing on routine care and prevention management of the leading causes of maternal and new born deaths. The data collectors actually watched and recorded the behavior of health providers using a checklist. Data collectors collect data and transfer it to data servers through mobile phones. The end result is that the users, team members, and ministry of health partners can view a series of tables in their browsers and can export data for further review.
Mobile based free health information service:
Text4baby is a free health education text messaging service for pregnant women and new moms. The service is in both Spanish and English. Pregnant and new moms who sign up for text4baby (by texting BABY or BEBE to 511411) receive three text messages per week containing health tips and resources. The program was made possible through a broad, public-private partnership and is an important example of leveraging widely used cell phone technology in new ways to improve health.
Mobile based health information service in Russia:
I was very pleased to learn about the important steps being made in maternal and infant health in Russia. Elizabeth Jordan shared that Text4Baby, free SMS-based service for new and expectant mothers, were heading for Russia this year. Voxiva and Johnson & Johnson have teamed up to support the service in Russia. Specialists from the Ministry of Health, Russia are modifying content in the context of the target population. Special trainings are being given to healthcare providers to have desired outcomes. Close monitoring and evaluation is being done to have feedback on how moms are engaging with the text4baby platform.