A New “Mobile Health” Campaign

A New ‘Mobile Health

The Mobile World congress in Barcelona isn’t all about business and cool new products. There are also charitable efforts emerging, like the new alliance between the UN, Vodafone, and the Rockefeller Foundation‘s mHealth Alliance that aims to use mobile technology to offer better worldwide healthcare, especially to rural areas in developing countries where doctors are few and far between. And the group is asking more members to join.

The UN/Vodafone Foundation Partnership has produced has listed over 50 mHealth programs around the world in a new mHealth for Development study, showing the benefits to healthcare that mobile technology can offer.

Foundation Partnership head Claire Thwaites told the BBC:

“I think there’s a real need to have an alliance. It’s looking at scaling up and bringing governments together with NGOs and corporations, and it will commission pretty rigorous research on what the market opportunity is for mHealth, answering the question: why should a business get involved in this area?”

“In India, there are 1m people that die each year purely because they can’t get access to basic healthcare,” explained Dan Warren, technology director for the GSM Association, the organization that hosts the MWC.

“The converse angle to that is that 80% of doctors live in cities, not serving the broader rural communities where 800 million people live.”

But mobile technology could link those in rural areas with city-based doctors. More importantly, it can offer a greater focus on prevention, rather than cure. In South Africa, for instance, medicine bottles were equipped with sensor cards, advising healthcare workers if patients weren’t taking their TB medicine. The percentages of people keeping up with their medicine rocketed from 22% to 90%.

“The biggest problem is fragmentation of small projects,” said Thwaites.

“A lot of the work being done on the ground is NGO- and foundation-led, but let’s join those efforts with the Microsofts and the Qualcomms and the Intels and the Vodafones.

“There’s a business case for it now; you have to have the experience of the NGOs on the ground talking to the big corporates out there and creating real business models, and that’s why I think the mHealth Alliance can tackle that.”

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