The innovations initiative: Technological approaches for addressing maternal, newborn and child health

  • Vesel L
  • Otieno J
  • Fotso J
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Abstract

Program/Project Purpose: As the use of technologies in public health becomes increasingly acceptable and feasible, it is essential that their application reflects the needs of specific target populations and incorporates multidisciplinary approaches. Innovations for Maternal, Newborn&ChildHealth (MNCH), running from2009 to 2016 in five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, is a novel initiative that tests creative solutions to understand and overcome barriers to MNCH services. Two projects, Health Center by Phone (CCPF) in Malawi and Care Community Hub (CCH) in Ghana, exemplify the potential of mobile health technologies (mHealth) to address obstacles to health service access and delivery. We will present the findings and scalability of CCPF and the design and potential of CCH. Structure/Method/Design: CCPF, recently completed, consisted of a facility-based toll-free hotline and text message reminders to connect women, caretakers and children to health workers via mobile phones. The intervention targeted a catchment population of four health centers in the Balaka region of Malawi, providing 35,000 pregnant women and 25,000 children access to the services. CCH, recently launched, aims to improve motivation, job satisfaction and professional development among frontline health workers through a mobile application. The intervention districts were selected based on collaboration with the Ghana Health Service and the Grameen Foundation to incorporate the CCH in the contexts of their current programs. All health workers in the selected districts were enrolled. Outcomes & Evaluation: A positive effect of CCPF was observed on aggregate home-based care practices for MNCH and facility-based care for mothers. There was a negative effect on aggregate facility based care for children, resulting from a substantial reduction in visits for fever, thereby reducing facilities' burden for symptoms that could be treated at home. CCH employed a human-centered design whereby the targeted end-users developed the content of the mobile application. It includes six concepts to support nurses to develop professionally, provide quality care, connect with others, manage work, improve well-being and feel appreciated. Going Forward: The Innovations approach, illustrated through these pilots, provides invaluable insight for implementers and policymakers on mHealth to improve the quality of MNCH delivery and outcomes. CCPF has demonstrated that mHealth can work to improve MNCH even in low resource settings. CCH has highlighted the importance of context, community ownership and capacity in the design of technological interventions and their sustainability.

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Vesel, L., Otieno, J., & Fotso, J. (2015). The innovations initiative: Technological approaches for addressing maternal, newborn and child health. Annals of Global Health, 81(1), 82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aogh.2015.02.693

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