Imani Cheers

‘Mobile Midwife’ Empowers Ghanaian Women: Phone apps provide key information during different stages of pregnancy

Faith-based organizations have been working in international development for decades, impacting areas of access to clean water, child protection, disaster response, food and agriculture, education, health and economic development.

With the expansion of mobile technology across the African continent, the possibilities of using cell phones to reach vulnerable populations is drastically improving access to health care and empowering communities.

World Vision has been working in 10 regions in Ghana since 1979. With an estimated population of 25 million, there is reportedly close to 100 percent mobile phone subscription. Is it possible for information delivered over a cell phone to impact someone’s health and improve the quality of care in rural communities?

A collaborative initiative spearheaded by the Grameen Foundation, the Mobile Technology for Community Health (MOTECH) was launched in 2008 with the goal of using cell phones to increase the quantity and quality of prenatal and neonatal care in rural Ghana and improve health outcomes for mothers and their newborns.

MOTECH has two interrelated mobile applications aimed toward women and their children. The “mobile midwife” program that was launched in July 2010 enables pregnant women and other caregivers to receive text or voice messages that offer time-specific information about different stages of their pregnancy. These messages include alerts and reminders, advice and educational information in English and in the user’s native tongue.

World Vision joined the MOTECH efforts in order to take the project from a pilot to national distribution. Over 20,000 women were enrolled in the first two years yet there have been several lessons learned to improve the service. For example, while cell phone subscriptions are close to 100 percent for the Ghanaian population in rural communities it is common for a phone to be shared by a family or many members of a village. When clients register for “mobile midwife” they can indicate if their mobile phone is a “personal phone,” a “household phone” or a “public phone,” and those who do not have access to a personal or household phone access their text/voice messages by calling a toll-free “short code.”

Literacy rates are 65 percent yet the target population tends to be less literate which makes voice messages critical to the success of the service. However, the cost of receiving text and voices messages can be costly to users. Despite these challenges, “mobile midwife” is thriving in Ghana and positively impacting the lives of women and caregivers all across the country.

Editor’s note: This blog originally appeared on the website Impatient Optimists and is reprinted here with permission.

Health Care, Technology, Telecommunications