Leaders met in Geneva this week to discuss the progress made on the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health and to plan for the next two years. Interestingly, mobile and ICT almost didn’t feature on the agenda or in discussions. One attendee mentioned a lack of knowledge amongst leaders on the role of mobile and ICT to deliver on the recommendations set out in the Commission on Life-Saving Commodities and the Commission on Information and accountability.
If this is the case, we’re missing out on one of the greatest opportunities to advance mHealth and prove its value to health systems. If you have the time, read through the work plans for all these initiatives and you’ll be amazed at the number of opportunities for global and country engagement, Government advocacy and convening, and mobilisation of health resources and organisations.
At the moment, the role of mobile and ICT is confined to two isolated areas in each of the recommendations. We have to do more to educate world leaders. This isn’t about the role that mobile and ICT play in recommendations 6 & 3 respectively. It’s about the enabling role that mobile and ICT can have across all the recommendations. We can showcase examples of services that are supporting the majority of those recommendations. True, we’re still battling to define scale and sustainability and a handful of other barriers common to any nascent industry, but success stories are starting to emerge.
If I had to define mHealth 101 for global health leaders, it would start with a lesson on the assets that the mobile industry wants to use to support health. In short, they have assets that they need to sweat more effectively:
- Core network assets – minutes, data, text, short-codes, etc.;
- Infrastructure – call centre, billing, support;
- Reach – ability to reach the last mile of consumer;
- Brand equity – trusted and established
- Experience in low margin, high volume businesses
So, the message for health leaders that should be included on their priority agendas for all convenings and work plans is that mobile and ICT is already providing support to the majority of their recommendations, and secondly that mobile and ICT should be a priority, not a nice-to-have. I use “is already providing” deliberately to hopefully evolve the mHealth conversation and get people talking about the emerging success stories.
What is the next lesson in mHealth our global leaders should be taking on board?
Photo: Every Women Every Child Global Strategy