mHealth: realizing the power of mobile technology

Tremendous strides are being made in the accessibility and quality of mobile health (mHealth) technology globally. Smartphone technology is serving as a catalyst in bridging the digital divide, with its rapid mass adaption around the world allowing populations to access data anytime from anywhere.

This article considers the opportunities for mHealth in Africa, India and Australia. Below is an extract relating to Africa, access the full article to read about India and Australia.

Understanding the current and future impact of health and its relationship to mobility is crucial to developing solutions that meet the needs of diverse populations globally.

How technology helps health and sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa remains a continent of growth and opportunity. Despite the challenges of limited electricity, lower literacy rates and constrained economic means, mobile penetration rates continue to rise in every country, with telecom companies adapting technology to meet the needs of the population. This is evidenced by the growing use of smartphones.*

From a public health perspective, international development agencies understand the current challenges of effectively integrating mobile solutions into facility- and community-based health services. Health SMS (text) campaigns alerting mothers when and where they can take their children for routine immunizations and behavior-change communication campaigns focused on safe motherhood are well established in Africa.**

With the success of SMS campaigns to raise awareness and knowledge regarding specific health issues, the evolution to more sophisticated interventions is in process. One example is UNICEF’s RapidPro, which launched in 2014 and is designed as an open-source SMS framework of operating systems for mobile phones. The concept is that organizations can build mobile-based applications that contribute to managing SMS-based data collection, complex workflows and data analytics.

With the growing demand for mobile technology, health systems will continue to rise and, with it, the need for elevated dialogue and collaboration between public and private institutions. EY believes that mobile technology will change the way health care is being delivered in Africa and support improved behavioral economics, with significant positive gender implications. Research demonstrates that women who have access to economic resources are more educated, have better health and nutrition, are in more equitable and less abusive relationships, and provide their children with similar advantages.***

* T. Machinchick and C. L. Stimmel, The Mobile Telecommunications Market in Africa: Market Dynamics and Challenges, Unique Innovations, Sustainability Issues and African Telecom Market Forecasts through 2020, (Manifest Mind, 2013).
** S. D’Agostino, “Empowering Moms Through mHealth,” The Huffington Post, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sharon-dagostino/the-power-of-a-text_b_4450068.html, accessed December 2014.
*** S. K. Head, S. Zweimueller, C. Marchena and E. Hoel, Women’s Lives and Challenges: Equality and Empowerment since 2000, ICF International, 2014.

The complete article was written by:

  • Jyoti M. Schlesinger
    Manager, Advisory - Performance Improvement, EY, US
  • Samantha Burris
    Supervising Associate, Markets and Business Development, EY, US
  • Christina Tippmann
    Manager, Advisory - Performance Improvement, EY, US

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