A baby from Kayapo tribe receives medical attention during the third day of a medical expedition of the "Expedicionarios da Saude" in Sao Felix, Brazil, April 23, 2011 (Ricardo Moraes/Courtesy Reuters).
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today unveiled an interesting new public-private partnership called the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA). Over the next three years, this alliance, which includes the State Department, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, USAID, and Johnson & Johnson, will use mobile phones to improve the health of women and newborns in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa by providing women with access to important and timely health information, customized to their stage of pregnancy or the age of their baby. Women will be able to use their phones to register their due date or baby’s birth date and receive SMS messages or voice recordings that are linked to their stage of pregnancy or baby’s growth. For example, expecting mothers could receive information on locally accessible foods that provide critical nutrition during pregnancy, or reminders about vaccinations their children will need as they develop. This information can empower women living in isolated, rural settings to improve their own health and the health of their families.
MAMA—and m-health (mobile-based health solutions) more generally—is another example of how cell phones are being used for a wide range of development purposes. As I mentioned in an earlier post about mobile banking, ninety percent of the world’s population now has access to a mobile network. They are using this access not only to stay connected with family members and friends, but also to manage their money, access important health and business information, and lead more productive lives.
M-health has great potential that is only beginning to be tapped around the world. In Pakistan, Mobilink and the Ministry of Health launched a program in 2008 to provide Lady Health Workers in rural areas with low-cost mobile phones to increase efficiency and patient access. This has enhanced communication between LHWs, their supervisors, patients, hospitals, and ambulances, improving the quality of maternal and infant health care services in rural areas throughout Pakistan.
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