Bihar, India is the state with the highest fertility rate – 3.6 children per woman. Dr. Anita, a recorded voice, is a tool for community health workers that are reaching out to Bihar’s 27 million women of reproductive age. This mobile initiative is part of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation program to reduce maternal, neonatal, and infant deaths in Bihar by 2017. Health workers dial a toll-free number and ask women to listen to Dr. Anita, who validates the credibility of these community health workers. What do you think are other potential benefits of this audio tool?
Read the article here: http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/sanchitasharma/a-mobile-key-to-maternal-health/article1-1284139.aspx
This program sounds like an incredible way to reach populations that have little access to doctors. I think the incorporation of simple technology into health is going to be the next big movement in improving health outcomes in areas where there is no doctor. I was recently reading an article that talked about the use of cell phones for better health reporting and collection of health data so programs can be better targeted to the needs in the area. It also brought up some of the same points in this article about better equipping health workers on the ground with information for intervention and prevention, but also can be used to send text messages with health information and reminders or follow up from health care professionals. This can help patients to with remembering to take medication and also expressing concerns to doctors without having to make a trip to a clinic that may be far away and expensive to travel to. I think mHealth has the potential to reach many people that would generally not have access to health information otherwise. It can help to increase health literacy and help women to find more options and have better health information.
The one thing I would worry about is it could create a system that has a lack of accountability. It my create a greater void for people because it might seem like less of a pressing issue to make clinics and health care providers available in these areas because mHealth can supplement information that would usually be given by healthcare providers. This may in the long run leave communities in much the same state as they are now in terms of access to care.