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Using a Mobile Phone to Improve Mother and Child Health


MAMA seeks to improve mother and child health through mobile phone messages

MAMA seeks to improve mother and child health through mobile phone messages

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From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report in Special English.

Different groups around the world are working to expand the uses for mobile technology in health care. Patricia Mechael is executive director of an organization called the mHealth Alliance.

"In the world, there are six billion mobile phone subscriptions in a population of seven billion people. And the most rapidly growing markets are those in developing countries. Africa, as a continent, you have widespread adoption, where three or four years ago the penetration rates were 20 percent or 30 percent, and now they're getting upwards of 60 percent in some countries."

She says a lot of work is being done to use mobile technology for mother and child health.

"Earlier work had been to look at mobile technologies and HIV and AIDS. And so we have some great evidence on the use of mobile for things like treatment adherence and compliance and care management."

More than 4,000 people from 50 countries have been meeting near Washington this week. The meeting is the fourth annual mHealth Summit. It brings together experts from what the organizers call the mHealth ecosystem. This includes nongovernmental organizations, governments and the technology industry.

In 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched a public/private partnership called the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, or MAMA. It includes the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Johnson & Johnson company, the United Nations Foundation and the mHealth Alliance. Kirsten Gagnaire is the global director of MAMA.

"There's about 800 women a day globally, and about three million babies every year, that die from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes."

She says the MAMA program sends messages to mobile phones to educate women about their health.

"We have a set of messages that cover pregnancy and the first year of a baby's life."

She says health messages may also be sent to a pregnant woman's husband and mother-in-law, for example. That way they too can understand what needs to be done.

Patricia Mechael of the mHealth Alliance says messages can be text or voicemail.

"For example, you can have a pregnant woman in Bangladesh registered into a system that provides messages that are timed to her pregnancy that can help her know what to do, when to do certain things. And then when to go in for specific treatment issues, or prevention care like immunizations and that sort of thing."

Even simple text messages can be important sources of information to people without Internet access. And Kirsten Gagnaire of the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Health says even online users may not understand all the information available.

"You have to be able to read through thousands of entries that come back to you on Google, for example, and then figure out what that information means to you. And that's not something that someone in a poor, illiterate or semi-literate kind of situation can do."

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