From November 5-7, 2015 Montreal hosted the Canadian Conference on Global Health. A delegation from Dalhousie participated in the many opportunities, and we will be publishing a series of blog posts from the students who attended.
Before I begin this blog post, I must disclose something to everyone reading – until November 5th 2015, I had never heard of the term “mHealth.” In fact, if you go look at my Twitter feed from earlier this week (shameless plug @_marianicole), I improperly stylized it as “MHealth.” Somebody had already re-tweeted my tweet (thanks @QueensGlobalHealth) by the time I recognized my error, so I didn’t want to delete and correct it. Fun fact: you cannot edit a tweet.
Sure, I had (briefly) heard of using mobile technology to address global health issues in one of my classes; however, mHealth as a concept is new to me. But hey, that’s what conferences are for: learning new things and gaining new perspectives. On the off chance that you, the reader of this post (if there are any of you out there), also have no idea what mHealth is, let me attempt to enlighten you! Because hey, conferences are also for sharing ideas and information (essentially, conferences are full of benefits).
Last Thursday at the Canadian Conference on Global Health (CCGH), there was a group of oral presentations on mHealth interventions geared toward improving maternal and newborn child health (MNCH) in developing countries. For this post, I’ve tried my best to blend information from this session, along with background information from a brief literature search on the topic of mHealth to pass along one of the many useful things I learned today, to all of you (hi mom, thanks for reading).
The first question that I know is burning in your mind: WHAT DOES THE M STAND FOR?!?! I may have spoiled that earlier in this post (sorry), when I talked about mobile technology to address global health issues, because the “m” is for “mobile.” The large photo of various mobile devices at the start of this post also probably gave that away (again, sorry).
mHealth is an emerging field of global health in which mobile and wireless devices are used to generate, aggregate and disseminate health information. Around the world, mobile networks are keeping people connected daily, even in the most rural of areas. mHealth is particularly important in the context of developing countries, where cost-effective solutions are necessary to improve healthcare systems and delivery.
One of the presentations, given by Kristy Hackett, at the CCGH outlined community health workers’ (CHWs) motivation during an mHealth intervention trial to improve MNCH in Singida, Tanzania. CHWs, who have enormous potential to improve MNCH in hard-to-reach communities, were provided with either a smartphone or paper-based protocols to use in household visits. The smartphone used an application that would guide and support CHWs throughout each visit with prompting questions, tools to help calculate important indicators such as gestational age, and help them decide if a clinical referral was necessary. Findings from qualitative interviews indicated that mobile phones initially incentivized and simplified the CHWs’ work, but difficulties arose with charging and airtime. The study findings highlight the need to continue to refine and improve mHealth approaches in order to move toward more efficient health delivery and better health outcomes.
Some of the many other applications of mHealth include reminding patients to take medications through notification systems and conducting disease surveillance. The 2015 mHealth Summit is currently underway in Washington DC (November 8-11). You can check out their website here: http://www.mhealthsummit.org/.
Look for more blog posts from Dalhousie delegates at the 2015 CCGH over the next few weeks. As always, for more information on the Global Health Office you can check our Twitter, Facebook and Website. We have also recently started an Instagram account, and I am going to shamelessly and directly ask (beg) you to follow us because (a) we have been and will be posting some really awesome pictures and (b) we currently only have 13 followers, which is an increase of 225% since Thursday when we only had 4. Happy Tuesday everyone!