mHealth in Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Programs around the World

mHealth in Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Programs around the World

Briana Britton (Healthcare Innovation Technology Lab, USA), Laura Pugliese (Healthcare Innovation Technology Lab, USA) and Stan Kachnowski (Healthcare Innovation Technology Lab, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch067
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The incorporation of mobile devices into the delivery of healthcare, known as mHealth, is changing the way care is delivered in the 21st century. The impact of mHealth is particularly salient in low and middle income countries (LMICs), where mHealth poses the opportunity to increase access and quality of healthcare in systems where supportive infrastructure is otherwise lacking. This approach is well-suited to target issues of maternal and child health, permitting an increase in health education, communication, monitoring, and care to what are often vulnerable and hard-to-access populations. Employing mHealth tactics that target such populations can improve the overall access and quality of maternal and child health in the developing world - a priority for the United Nations as reflected in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the field of mHealth is new and still developing, many programs and thought-leaders have already successfully applied mHealth strategies in interventions to improve maternal and child health through health education, preventive care, emergency response, biometric data collection, and training healthcare workers.
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The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health offer a metric mHealth programs can work to meet. Due to the rapid penetration of mobile phones, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), there is a great opportunity to harness mobile technologies in the integration of healthcare delivery for maternal, infant and child health.

Current Scientific Knowledge in Maternal, Newborn, and Child mHealth

The World Health Organizations’ mHealth Technical and Evidence Review Group (mTERG) for reproductive, newborn, and child health, is a pioneer in the field of mHealth. The coalition is a compilation of experts from the fields of health, academia, and research institutions. The WHO mTERG recognizes that decision-makers in low and middle-income countries are faced with a multitude of information about mHealth tools and systems with little instructions on how to select the best approach of implementing mHealth tactics. The coalition provides guidance on selecting appropriate mHealth initiatives. Included in mTERG is Dr. Marleen Temmerman, a medical doctor and Belgian Senator. As a gynecologist, Dr. Temmerman is an international leader in maternal healthcare. Through her work on assessing the impact of syphilis in pregnancy outcomes in Kenya, Dr. Temmerman champions for improvements in healthcare of disadvantaged populations and for the reproductive rights of women (Temmerman, 2000).

Aaltje Camielle Noordam, a scholar from Maastricht University in the Netherlands and affiliated with UNICEF, creates an evidence-base for mHealth projects, focusing mainly on the delay in care and how to provide more efficient healthcare access (Noordam, 2011).

A professor of Global Health Policy at New York University, Karen Grepin researches opportune avenues for improvements to maternal and child healthcare, particularly in low and middle-income countries (Grepin, 2013).

Dr. Seth Noar, a professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, leads the charge in understanding how to best communicate with patients. Dr. Noar is testing message design theories and frameworks to best understand what types of messages will be most memorable and call to action the receiver (Noar, 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

World Health Organization: A specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health.

Biometric Device: A device that measures physiological characteristics such as finger print or blood pressure.

Maternal and Child Health: the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period; and the health of children during the newborn stage through childhood.

MHealth: An abbreviation for “mobile health”, or the practice of medicine and mobile health supported by mobile devices.

Public Health: The health of the population as a whole, especially as monitored, regulated, and promoted by the state.

Low and Middle Income Countries: Referred to as developing countries with gross national income per capita of $4,085 or less as of 2013. The term is broad reaching and is not intended to imply that the economies have reached the final stages of development.

SMS Text Message: Short Message Service (SMS) is a text messaging service component of phone, Web, or mobile communication systems. It uses standardized communications protocols to allow fixed line or mobile phone devices to exchange short text messages.

United Nations: An intergovernmental organization created to promote international cooperation following the Second World War to prevent another such conflict.

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