We Take Sides Blog

Turning to Smartphones to Connect Patients and Doctors in the Poorest Communities in Africa

January
13 2014

Africa is a ripe market for smartphones. Even big tech companies like Samsung have taken note. Likewise, many start-ups have chosen the mobile strategy when dealing with health and economic issues in Africa and have seen tremendous impact.

The Millennium Development Goals Centre for East and Southern Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya and present in Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Ethiopia, has started an initiative to integrate mobile technology and health services, improve health education and awareness while connecting patients with doctors.WSM-Blog_1.9.14

The initiative is part of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) that started in 2005 with the goal of helping people in the poorest communities of Africa get out of poverty by 2015. More than 330 million cell phone subscribers live in sub-Saharan Africa, and one of MVP’s first accomplishments was ensuring 80% of households are within two kilometers of a cell tower. MVP then created mobile-based programs to promote health services.

Child Count is an SMS health program that can provide users with information regarding malnutrition, malaria testing, and other common health issues while also tracking patient data. Community health workers can use Child Count to log patient data into a secure portal and keep records, improving treatment and prevention. Child Count tracks around 10,000 children aged 0-5.

Another program that works as a smartphone app, called CommCare was launched recently. Community health workers receive smartphones and are guided through steps depending on a patient’s symptoms. The app—not the phone—stores patient data, so information is secure and a person must log into the app to access it. The system allows for easy access to a patient’s records, as well as simple and easy-to-follow instructions for treating various symptoms and illnesses.

Additionally, all clinics and schools have access to basic data connectivity, making it easier to maintain a connection between patients (both children and adults) and community health workers.  The Millennium Villages Project hopes to maintain these programs while continuing to improve health education, prevention, and treatment across Africa.

This is one example of the many ways technology has made it convenient and cheaper to advance our world’s most pressing issues. Do you know other great examples of successful health mobile strategies in vulnerable populations? Share them with us in the comment section below!

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