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‘Simple mobile technology saves lives’

November 5, 2010 • Mobile and Telecoms, Top Stories

SIMPLE mobile technology, like basic cell phones, can be used to save the lives of mothers at childbirth, improve the care of newborns and children, reach underserved populations in remote areas, a new research has found.

Research done by mHealth Alliance and released by UN office in Nairobi, reveals that more advanced mobile technology can do even more, such as checking on patients, keeping records, improving diagnosis and treatment in the field, and letting community health workers consult general practitioners and specialists for guidance.

“With mobile technologies for health, called ‘mhealth’ or ‘mobile health,’ we’re extending capabilities to where they don’t exist today,” says David Aylward, who heads mHealth Alliance, a partnership founded by the United Nations Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation.

“At the most basic level, mobile phones can be used to keep track of people, call for emergency assistance, remind them of appointments and share information,” said Dr Julian Schweitzer, former Chair of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Care (PMNCH) and the Chair of the Finance Working Group for the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.

“But then you can layer on things like check lists, protocols, the steps to ensure a safe birth and action instructions in particular circumstances,” says Dr Schweitzer.

Used by midwives in rural, urban slums and isolated areas, cell phones can also be attached to diagnostic devices, including those used for remote fetal monitoring or remote wireless ultrasound.

“In the near future, wireless diagnostics like stethoscopes, blood pressure, temperature and insulin monitors, and ultrasounds, will enable remote diagnosis and treatment far from the closest doctor or clinic,” Aylward said.

BRIAN ADERO in Nairobi, Kenya

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