Mobile Health for Maternal Health: The Tech Answer to High Maternal Mortality Rates

Posted by on September 27, 2014 in Articles | 0 comments

Mobile Health for Maternal Health: The Tech Answer to High Maternal Mortality Rates
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Mobile Health for Maternal Health: The Tech Answer to High Maternal Mortality Rates

When I think of rural health clinics and all the challenges that these healthcare practitioners face–lack of clean water, stable electricity, and basic medical supplies, I can’t help but skip over cell phones as a potential solution for maternal deaths. Mobile phones, however, are pervasive. Of the six billion people on the planet, 4.8 billion own a cell phone and the number of mobile broadband connections in developing countries is increasing. (Allen, 2014) With the proliferation of phones, the opportunity to spread health information through this technology (known as mobile health) is endless, especially in the maternal health field.

Every day, 800 women die from pregnancy and childbirth related complications. The vast majority of these deaths occur in developing countries, and tragically, many of these deaths are entirely preventable. Mothers are not dying because the health system does not know how to treat them, but instead expectant mothers lack access to skilled care at birth, emergency obstetric services, and health information.

Information is power, something that many organizations have taken to heart and consequently focused their efforts on improving the health of mothers across the world. There are at least one billion women who own mobile phones in low- and middle-income countries, places that tend to have higher maternal mortality rates and desperately need improvements in maternal health care. The Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, founded by Hillary Clinton in 2011, provides health information to women throughout their pregnancy and the following year via text messages through the MAMA initiative. After a successful pilot project in Bangladesh, MAMA expanded to provide mobile health services to mothers in India and South Africa.

Expectant mothers who use a mobile health service can look forward to receiving weekly messages. These text messages or voicemails include reminders for prenatal and postnatal check-ups, information about the baby’s development, and warning signs delivered in the mother’s native language. For example, one of MAMA’s messages updates pregnant women on the development of their babies at twenty-five weeks: “Your baby’s movements will get stronger and more regular. Your baby won’t move all the time. Like you, sometimes he’ll just want to rest and sleep.” (Bekker, 2014) Another includes warning signs for anemia, a risk factor for postpartum hemorrhage: “Dizziness, headaches, and tiredness are all symptoms of low iron. Take daily iron and folic acid supplement. This should help” (MAMA, 2014)

These projects demonstrate the potential positive impact simple technology can have on maternal health. Equipped with a steady stream of updates on their pregnancies, mothers are better able to care for themselves and their newborns.

 


Photo Credit

Jessica Lea/Department for International Development. 2014. A life free from violence. [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/o8cjsj*

Works Cited

1. Allen, Becky. (2014). Allen and Karp: Cell Phones – The Future of Rural Health Care in South Asia. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved from http://blogs.cfr.org/asia/2014/08/14/cell-phones-the-future-of-rural-health-care-in-south-asia/

2. Bekker, Marcha. (2014). When Being Pregnant At Work Has Distinct Advantages. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcha-bekker/when-being-pregnant-at-wo_b_5716653.html

3. Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action. (2014). Infographic: Mobile Messages Put the Power of Health in Every MAMA’s Hand. Retrieved from http://www.mobilemamaalliance.org/sites/all/themes/mama/images/FINAL%20MAMA%20Fast%20Sheet%20pic.jpg

 

*In no way does the licensor of this image endorse SCIWHF, the content of this post, or the use of this image on this website.

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