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By Guest Blogger

iAfya: Health Information through mobile phones – today in Kenya, tomorrow across Africa

iAfya includes pictorial health messages, designed to make the public uptake of health information fun and to also cater for the less literate audience.

This is a guest post, written by Dr. John Muthee, Head of Business Development, Avallain Africa

“If we can improve access to health information to the masses, then we are on our way to improving health interventions and ultimately, reducing health related costs.”

Across the world, health information is vital for any society that aims to increase its members’ productivity for economic, political or social gains. This then led to an increase in the quest for healthcare information and knowledge. In a country like Kenya, and its contemporaries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the low ratio of healthcare workers to the population has only led to the painting of a crisis picture in the health sector. This has resulted in households taking preventive, non-informed decisions when a health problem occurs, in the hope of cutting costs. Often this means arriving at a clinical facility late or in the worst case scenario, the occurrence of fatalities that would otherwise have been prevented if free-to-use and trusted health information had been available.

Even in cases where populations can afford healthcare, access is hampered by the unequal distribution of relevant facilities and the uncertainty in the quality of the provided care and in some instances – lack of available information on the outcomes of the various modalities of cure.

The team at Avallain Africa, the Sub-Saharan sister organization of the Swiss-based social enterprise, Avallain and the leading organization behind the mHealth service iAfya, believes that healthcare is a basic human right – and health information needs to reach those at the bottom of the pyramid, in a language and channel acceptable to them.

iAfya contains a comprehensive and trusted source of health information – duly simplified to make both users experience and understanding easy. The iAfya app offers answers to everyday health questions. Users can look up medical conditions, browse medical procedures, check treatment options or basic first aid information.

iAfya also includes pictorial health messages – designed to make the public uptake of health information fun and to also cater for the less literate audience. While the app is currently only available in Kenya, the content is written by registered medical practitioners across Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda and is available in both English and Swahili. iAfya is currently available on the BlackBerry platform, on USSD SMS form, web as well as Facebook, with the Android app development underway.

Future versions of iAfya will give users tools to create personal health goals and plans, as well as a social media component, where iAfya users will act as community health workers and enlighten their friends and families on basic health care education via social media.

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