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Mobile Health At A Glance: 5 Technologies Transforming Maternal and Child Healthcare In Africa

With the rapid growth of cell phone users, mobile technology is transforming the face of maternal and child healthcare in the African continent. According to reports, more than half a billion people across the continent are now cell phone users. The number of smartphone connections in Africa is also expected to more than triple over the next five years, rising from 226 million in 2015 to 720 million by 2020.

Mobile technology can play a crucial role addressing several impending social issues in the continent including maternal and child healthcare as an increasing number of people gain access to mobile services. Mobile applications, in particular, can provide high-quality and easily-accessible care in a region where accessing even basic healthcare facilities is a challenge.

From expanding the knowledge base of healthcare workers and nurses to providing vital information on post-natal care for mothers and their infants, these apps can bring a variety of benefits to the people. In fact, several mobile technologies have already become the mainstay of Africa’s health and wellness programs for pregnant women and new mothers.

Here is a list of five mobile technologies that are revolutionizing maternal care across the continent.

1. Clinical Patient Administration Kit (CliniPAK)

The Clinical Patient Administration Kit or CliniPAK is a portable, durable, and self-contained mobile electronic medical record system in a suitcase-sized case. Vecna Technologies, a Massachusetts-based company, distributes and maintains the system in Nigeria. The module consists of a solar-powered touch screen laptop and other medical tools. The box also includes an on-board server. The system can be instrumental in providing medical care for pregnant women as well as post-natal care for mothers and their infants.

Clinical health workers are the primary end users, who can use it to track patient care, generate diagnostic reports, and record the outcome of the treatment. Healthcare workers can sync the portable module with their android smartphones when visiting the patients in remote areas. The biggest advantage of this system is that it allows clinicians to share medical information with patients, colleagues, and public health officials.

2. Zero Mothers Die

Zero Mothers Die is a global maternal healthcare campaign. The program intends to provide women with universal access to information and services supporting maternal, newborn and child health. The first country to launch the initiative was Ghana. Gabon, Mali, Nigeria, and Zambia also joined the campaign in the next phase.

The campaign provides specially-designed mobile phones called ‘Mum’s Phones’ to pregnant women at no cost. The Mum’s Phone allows a woman to receive text messages (SMS) and voice messages with essential information on pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare in her local language. The phone also comes with pre-loaded free airtime packages, using which a woman can call a health care worker in case of a medical emergency. Solar mobile chargers are also provided at no extra cost so that even remotely-located women can keep their phones charged 24 hours a day. The program also provides android tablets equipped with an easy-to-use app to local healthcare workers allowing them to access the latest medical information and upload patient data.

3. Gifted Mom

In Cameroon, 20 women on an average die during childbirth, and 160 children under the age of 5 die due to the lack of proper medical care every day. Gifted Mom is a mobile health service provider that aims to change this dire situation with the help of technology. It offers a plethora of medical services through mobile devices using a combination of low-cost mobile technologies such as android applications, voicemails, and text messages.

Gifted Mom subscribers receive alerts for vaccinations, checkups, and answers to their specific medical queries. Plus, it offers real-time data collection and analysis services to local clinical health workers (CHWs). After the initial success in Northern Cameroon, the service was launched in rest of the country as well as neighboring Nigeria. Till date, the service provider has managed to register over 13,000 women and newborns.

4. Mobile Technology for Community Health (MOTECH)

The Mobile Technology for Community Health (MOTECH) platform is an open-source enterprise software package that comes with an array of innovative mHealth technologies. Being implemented by the Washington-based Grameen Foundation, the program focuses on improving maternal and child health, using a suite of mobile technologies. Low-income mothers can avail the services free of cost.

In Ghana, the platform offers two revolutionary services, including the Mobile Midwife and the Nurse’s application. The Mobile Midwife app delivers text and voice messages to pregnant women and new mothers, reminding them of the upcoming medical checkups and vaccinations. It also provides information on different topics such as prenatal care, breastfeeding, nutrition, and safe delivery.

The Nurse’s app or the Client Data app allows nurses and healthcare workers to upload patient data to a centralized database. It allows them to track patient care remotely from anywhere in the country.

5. Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA)

The Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) provides free voice and text messages to pregnant women and new mothers in their local language. The program is currently active in South Africa and Nigeria along with India and Bangladesh. Today, MAMA has reached over 7.5 million women and families with vital health information in these four countries.

Expectant women can register their due date on this platform. They can expect to receive mHealth services timed to their pregnancy stages. Just like other applications, MAMA also provides on-demand healthcare advice on pregnancy and delivery-related topics.

Conclusion

The African continent faces severe maternal and child healthcare problems. Access to proper and timely care as well as medical advice remains one of the biggest challenges in this region. Thanks to the new wave of innovative mobile technologies, known as mHealth care services, this grim picture has started to change. With the growing penetration of mobile networks in several African countries, mobile technologies are being utilized to provide basic maternal and child healthcare. The above five mobile technologies are transforming the healthcare system in the sub-Saharan countries through a wider access to medical knowledge and information.