Mobile tech on the Africa health frontier
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Billions have been spent to bring AIDS medicines to patients in Africa, but a technology with just as much lifesaving potential can be had for pennies: the text message.
As African leaders gather for a summit with President Barack Obama this week, U.S. health agencies are beginning to invest in programs to help expand mobile health technology, which has the potential to dramatically improve life for millions in sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s poorest region. Simple mobile telephone text messages can be used to help keep AIDS medication stocked at a remote clinic, or to summon an ambulance in time to save a baby’s life.
In the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has freely distributed a mobile app version of software that transmits diagrams that help field workers visualize the outbreak and its spread. It also has automated tools that let health workers speed up data analysis and help track the contacts of people who have fallen ill.