Sunday, May 31, 2009

Not a killer application

You are reading this posting, you are doing well. You have access to internet, probably a mobile phone and what’s the most important - you can read.

Save the Children has published its its tenth annual State of the World’s Mothers report and you can be sure that it is not a nice paper to read. What do you think about this:
  • every year, around 50 million mothers in the developing world give birth at home with no professional care whatsoever. In Niger, only 33% of births are attended by health personnel
  • the majority of children under age 5 in the poorest regions of the world do not get basic health care when they need it
  • for the 10 bottom-ranked countries, 9 out of 10 women are likely to suffer the loss of a child in their lifetime
  • in Sierra Leone 1 woman in 8 dies in pregnancy or childbirth. In Ireland the ratio is 1 in 47.000
How could the situation of the poorest be improved? The report gives recommendations and proposes actions, such as
“Prenatal and postnatal care should include counseling to encourage a safe birth, awareness of danger signs that require immediate attention, a plan for going to a skilled health care provider, counseling on how to care for the newborn, and help to ensure breast feeding. “
This is a matter of getting information to the people when they need it.

However, it is not an option to print booklets and deliver those to the people. Where the situation is the worst, there are also most of the people illiterate; usually the situation for women is even worse than for the population in general. In Chad female literacy rate is 13%.

You might think that internet is the way to deliver information, but even that doesn't reach the masses. Mobile phones looks much better option, for example in Sierra Leone there are 66 times more mobile users than internet users.

Mobile phone is the medium to reach people that are in need of information. In the developing countries mobile phone is often shared by a family or a community, making the potential number of users even bigger than subscription numbers show. For people living in places where medical assistance is not available, getting basic information with phone is certainly an option. What’s most important, the information should be available in their own language either from a live person or from a recording. When a pregnant mother uses the service, she can be instructed and also her phone number can be stored. Later the phone number can be used by the healthcare personnel to get back in touch with mother or she can be reminded with a message to get more information as her pregnancy goes further. After the childbirth she can get information about the importance of breastfeeding, and so on.

Does anybody know if this kind of a solution has already been made?

This is not a killer application. This solution saves lives.


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