Mobile health or “mHealth” applications featuring targeted text or video messages to frontline health workers and patients in resource-poor countries have had mixed success so far owing mostly to the limitations of the technology and economics in scaling up pilot projects. The mHIFA Working Group recently updated a review of existing projects, highlighting some of the more successful ones.
Foremost among them is the Safe Pregnancy and Birth app from Hesperian Health Guides. As judged by the Working Group’s criteria of “Significance of the Health Problem,” “Appropriateness of the Targeting,” “Value of the Information,” “Ease of Assimilation of the Information,” “Availability of the Application,” and “Technological Accessibility of the Application,” the Safe Pregnancy and Birth app provides short, easy to follow, step by step instructions (illustrated by simple drawings) of pregnancy and birth health issues.
For example a lay birth attendant in a remote location can get simple instructions on how to check the baby’s position in the womb or non-medical techniques for strengthening labor.
The app is freely downloadable to iPhones (or iPads and other Apple products) as well as Android devices. For now, the information is available only in English or Spanish, but the producers welcome offers to translate the information into other languages. The Working Group noted the app’s focus on action-oriented instructions and ease of navigation.
Mobile health applications are still proving their worth, but apps such as this one definitely help to make the case for continuing the effort.