Welcome to the mHealth Blog

Hello everybody! My name is Paola Fava, I am a business developer and co­founder of Gnucoop, an IT cooperative that provides software solutions to support not for profit organisations (i.e.: NGOs, UN Agencies, etc…) in managing their information systems, from data collection to data visualization and analysis. I would like to thank ONG2.0 for giving Gnucoop the possibility to use this space to share with you some interesting facts, information or talks about mHealth, mHealth tools, presentation of case studies and user’s

So, let’s start blogging!

We start with some basic information… what is mHealth? First of all, we need to understand what an health system is. An Health system is a combination of structures, processes and resources required to deliver healthcare to the population. Therefore, this system needs financing mechanisms, well trained and paid workforce, reliable information and well ­maintained facilities to guarantee a good service to patients.

Where does the mHealth come in then?

Well, in some contexts those requirements are not totally fulfilled. Particularly when reliable information is missing, it is very difficult to monitor the spread of diseases, understand if patients’ conditions are properly diagnosed or if proper treatments are given, just to mention a few… here is where mHealth can play a very important role.

According to WHO, Mobile Health (m­Health) is the “Provision of health services and information via mobile and wireless technologies. mHealth includes mobile phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), tablets, mobile applications and wireless medical devices“.

mHealth has the potential to address and overcome challenges such as:

  • Disparities in access to health services, helping remote communities to also connect and avail of health services;
  • Inadequacies of the health infrastructure, supporting in monitoring the quality of health posts and health centers;
  • Shortage of human resources for health, by empowering health promoters and spreading educational messages.

Let’s start with a first example of mhealth tool: the MAMA (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action) project.

MAMA is an SMS system developed through a public private partnership between USAID, Johnson & Johnson, the United Nations Foundation and BabyCenter. It supports programs delivering maternal health information to pregnant women by SMS. The messages are built around key health behaviors and interventions which evidence shows can improve health outcomes. The messages blend healthcare with child development information, so mothers are motivated to get the right care at the right time for themselves and their children. These include antenatal care, nutrition, vaccination, oral rehydration, and use of insecticide­ treated bed nets.

Since 2011, the system has reached 2 millions people among women families and caregivers living in remote communities in Bangladesh, South Africa, India and Nigeria. MAMA messages empower women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

Talk soon about another mhealth tool or case study.


Originally written by Paola Fava
Photo Credits: Educational text messages to new mothers save lives


Technology is a new kind of lifeline for refugees

Imagine you’re a refugee leaving home for good. You’ll need help. But what you ask for today is much different than it would have been just 10 years ago.

“What people are demanding, more and more, is not classic food, shelter, water, healthcare, but they demand wifi,” said Melita Šunjić, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Šunjić began her work with Syrian refugees in camps in Amman, Jordan. Many were from rural areas with basic cell phones.

“The refugees we’re looking at now, who are coming to Europe – this is a completely different story,” Šunjić said. “They are middle class, urban people. Practically each family has at least one smart phone. We calculated that in each group of 20, they would have three smart phones.”

Refugees use their phones to call home and to map their routes. Even smugglers have their own Facebook pages.

“I don’t remember a crisis or refugee group where modern technology played such a role,” Šunjić said.

As refugees from Syria continue to flow into Europe, aid organizations are gearing up for what promises to be a difficult winter.

Emily Eros, ‎a GIS mapping officer with the American Red Cross, said her organization is working on the basics like providing food, water and shelter, but it’s also helping refugees stay connected. “It’s a little bit difficult because it’s not just a matter of getting a wifi station up, it’s also a matter of having someone there who’s able to fix it if something goes wrong,” she said.

The new demands are equally critical and challenging to meet, said Kate Coyer, director of the Civil Society and Technology project at Central European University in Hungary, which is also helping to provide refugees with charging stations and wifi hotspots.

“There are two kind of distinct problems really – how do you bring wifi to places and then also how do you bring in electricity and ways for people to charge their phones,” Coyer said.

As borders and routes constantly change, it becomes both more important and more difficult for refugees and aid organizations alike to share information.

Access to technology, information and communication, Šunjić said, is beginning to be regarded as a basic of humanitarian aid. Of refugees who have no way to stay in touch, said Šunjić, “one of the first things they buy when they come to Western countries is mobile phones.”

Listen the podcast here.

Originally written by Sally Herships

Featured in: Marketplace for Monday, November 9, 2015

Photo Credits: AKOVOS HATZISTAVROU/AFP/Getty Images “Refugees use mobile phones to take pictures of a map upon their arrival on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on September 21, 2015“.


Student launches solar backpack for Kenyan school children

Former Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, student Salima Visram has become a social entrepreneur even as she studies as an undergraduate in Canada, with the launch of a crowd-funded Kenyan business producing school students’ backpacks that create solar lighting for pupils to do their homework.

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