The World Health Organization (WHO) has just released its June 2011 mHealth: New Horizons for Health through Mobile Technologies report, one of the first comprehensive publications on the topic looking at the state of mHealth—a common abbreviation for mobile health—across the WHO member countries. The report brings together survey findings from the WHO with relevant published literature, creating an information-dense document worth browsing.
As defined by the WHO, mHealth is “the use of mobile and wireless technologies to support the achievement of health objectives,” and is commonly acknowledged as a key mechanism for transforming health outcomes throughout the developing world. With cellular phone use and ownership growing rapidly around the globe, even individuals lacking basic water and sanitation sometimes have access to them. According to the report, there are now more than 5 billion wireless subscribers, and over 70% of them live in low- and middle-income countries.
These devices are used not only for calls, but also for bank transfers, SMS (text message), and now health promotion, data collection and resources. Of the 112 countries who returned the WHO mHealth survey, 83% reported having at least one mHealth initiative in their country, and the majority of that group had four or more initiatives.
At MCHIP, we have been exploring the area of mHealth and applying what we know to different parts of our Program. For instance, we administered quality of care surveys, collecting observational data at delivery to evaluate the quality of maternal health care at sites in select African countries, using tablets and mobile platforms. We also recently engaged with the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action and look forward to a growing partnership.