Can mobile phones improve health care for expectant mothers?

Health, News/feature, Africa, Ireland, Sierra Leone, 2013
Joseph Musa, World Vision, with a mobile phone. Mobile phones are being used to improve healthcare for expectant and new mothers in Sierra Leone. Photo: Frédérique Vallieres

An Irish Aid funded project uses mobile phones to increase frequency and quality of care that is available to new and expectant mothers.

Improving the healthcare for expectant and new mothers in our Key Partner Countries is an important goal for Irish Aid. In Sierra Leone, one in eight women risk dying during pregnancy or childbirth, but pre-natal and antenatal healthcare could significantly reduce the risks that these women face and improve the health and survival chances of their babies.

However, Sierra Leone’s health services are strained and increasing access to maternal and child health is a challenging task. Working with our partners World Vision Ireland and the Centre of Global Health in Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Irish Aid began to support an innovative project which uses mobile phones to increase frequency and quality of care that is available to new and expectant mothers.

World Vision implements their maternal, neonatal and child health programmes with a network of Community Health Workers, local community members who take on the task of providing basic health care to their community. Using a specially designed application installed on a mobile phone, Community Health Workers can now receive reminders about household visits to pregnant women and mothers; make emergency referrals to health centres; and collect real time information about the health of over 22,000 households in the Bonthe District of Sierra Leone.

A team of doctoral researchers in TCD are looking at how this mobile application can be used as a human resource for health management tool for community health workers and the social and cultural impacts of mobile health projects.

The project, which is being carried out in conjunction with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the University of Sierra Leone, was recently awarded the African Development Bank’s Innovation for eHealth Solutions for Africa Award. The project is an example of how low cost technology such as mobile phones can be used in innovative ways to help with the delivery of essential services in our Key Partner Countries.

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