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mHealth

By Mojca Cargo

World Malaria Day 2013 and mHealth – “Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria”

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Today is World Malaria Day. According to WHO, there are approximately 3.3 BILLION people who are at risk of malaria [1].

Since 2010 major progress in the fight against malaria has been made. Malaria mortality rates have fallen by more than 25% [2] globally and by 33% in the WHO African Region. Despite this progress, in 2010 there were still about 219 million malaria cases and an estimated 660 000 malaria deaths.

This year’s key message is “Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria.” With the fact that malaria is preventable and curable and that increased malaria prevention and control measures dramatically reduce the malaria burden, there is a lot of potential to completely eradicate malaria.

mHealth offers various solutions from prevention and promotion to diagnoses and monitoring when considering the patient pathway, as well as educating health workers, enabling disease surveillance and mapping, collecting health data and improving reporting and supply chains when looking at health systems strengthening. One study in Bangladesh found that mobile phones, along with local knowledge, helped to ensure effective diagnosis and treatment of malaria in remote areas.

Unfortunately, not many mHealth initiatives are happening, but those that are happening are worth highlighting. One in particular is Vodafone & Novartis’ SMS for Life in Tanzania, which is one of the most recognised mHealth services where mobile and electronic mapping technology is used to track the stock levels of anti-malarial drugs at health facilities to manage supplies. For a better understanding of SMS for Life’s impact have a look at the video here.

Another interesting initiative was developed in Botswana by PING (Positive Innovation for the Next Generation) within their Disease Surveillance & Mapping Project mobile phone application that allows:

  • health facilities to submit regular reports back to the Ministry of Health (MOH), and
  • health workers to report real-time disease outbreak data, tag the data with GPS coordinates, and blast out SMS disease outbreak alerts to all other healthcare workers in the district.

The Ministry of Health in Uganda developed a monitoring platform that allows clinics to send in their weekly disease and malaria data via a multi-SMS report.  This involves replacing the MOH form with a “SMS-able” paper version  and creating web dashboard that provide overview of disease burden, including specific malaria treatment and diagnosis data and drug levels to help report stock outs. In addition, four students at Makerere University in Kampala have developed software called “Matatibu”, which will be able to diagnose malaria patients without a single prick on their skin, as well as showing them where the available treatment centre is located.

In 2010, 90% of all malaria deaths occurred in the WHO African Region, MOSTLY among CHILDREN UNDER FIVE years of age. A child dies every minute from malaria with an estimated 80% of malaria deaths occurring in just 14 countries. Together, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria account for over 40% of the estimated total of malaria deaths globally [3]. As seen above, mHealth offers solutions to enhance eradication of malaria, but there can be challenges that make these solutions hard to implement. Various papers offer suggestions on how to overcome these, one of them being m-Enabled Inclusive Business Models: Applications for Health by SHOPS.

What are the challenges that your organisation is coming across? How are you overcoming it? And what are your thoughts for a small number of malaria-focused mHealth initiatives?

If you are interested in various mHealth initiatives, please have a look at the mHealth Tracker here. If you are aware of any other mHealth initiative that we are not listing on our mHealth tracker we would be very keen to learn more about it. You can either email us on mHealth@gsma.com or complete an online form here.

Photo: WHO/C. Banluta


[1] 10 facts on malaria: http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/malaria/malaria_facts/en/index.html

[2] http://www.who.int/campaigns/malaria-day/2013/en/index.html

[3] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs094/en/index.html

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