This policy briefing from BBC Media Action discusses how the mobile phone offers important opportunities for saving lives, through mobile health (mHealth) projects that deliver healthcare information and services via mobile communication devices.
The explosive growth of mobile telephony over the past decade has generated exciting new thinking around its potential to improve the uptake of health services and healthy behaviours. This paper illustrates why the reach, design and scale of mHealth render it such a potentially robust healthcare tool, using BBC Media Action's direct experience with a mHealth project in Bihar, India, an area with high maternal and child mortality, but rapidly expanding mobile markets.
The project aimed to help train up to 200,000 community health workers over five years, and to reach almost seven million pregnant women and mothers of children under the age of two with crucial health information. The briefing explains the project design, which included basic mobile handsets, localised content and a public-private relationship between the state government and mobile sector, all of which, the paper argues, enabled the project to operate at scale and reach poor and marginalised populations.
The paper concludes with a review of the state of the evidence on mHealth and conclusions based on the Bihar project, determining that while it is still early to report on impact, when mHealth is embedded in a programme design that is equitable, highly-targeted and at scale, it has the potential to enable cost-effective solutions for reaching marginalised populations lacking access to essential health information and services.