WHY IS THIS INVESTMENT IMPORTANT?
Mobile health, or mHealth, refers to the use of mobile technology to achieve health goals. Examples of mHealth include sending health information to patients via text message; using mobile technology to collect epidemiological and other data for more effective decision making; helping health workers learn new information and make more accurate diagnoses; and more. mHealth tools are being used to strengthen disease-focused health programs, and mHealth can improve access to quality health care, help health systems function better, and help health workers work more effectively.
As access to mobile phones continues to grow, and the price of smartphones is dropping in developing countries, mHealth provides an opportunity to reach out to communities. For example, South Africa’s MomConnect project sends text messages to pregnant women and new mothers to help them care for themselves and their children and encourages them to seek health care. With a single text message, vital information is able to reach millions of women and families.
Educators are also using mobile technology to bring educational opportunities to health workers in rural or hard-to-reach areas, where they often receive little or no training. Mobile apps, video content, quizzes, and other forms of mobile learning can help health workers gain new information and keep their skills fresh. These materials can be used even without an internet connection. For example, the mPowering Frontline Health Workers partnership is using mobile technology to provide educational opportunities for thousands of health workers so that they can provide better care to their patients.
mHealth has an important role to play in the global health security agenda. For example, community health workers are using mobile tools to collect data about health in their communities and automatically alert authorities to potential outbreaks. During the Ebola crisis in West Africa, mHero allowed Ministries of Health to share urgent information with health workers directly to their phones.
Investments in mHealth have benefits across diseases and health areas, and can increase the range and impact of existing work in some of the hardest to reach areas. When mobile tools are developed using open source code and openly licensed content, they can be built upon by others and adapted to new countries, health contexts, or technologies. Success in mHealth requires new partnerships with governments, technologists, nonprofits, the private sector, and others.