New service uses mobile phones to reduce maternal mortality
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
For many rural expectant and new mothers, health care providers may be far away, but new technology is bringing them close through the mobile phone, now almost ubiquitous even in the poorest corners of the world.
This could save many of the 800 women a day who die of preventable problems related to pregnancy and childbirth, most of them in developing countries. Growing evidence indicates that many of these deaths could be avoided through better information and access to skilled birth attendants – or urgent care helped by the use of mobile phones and messaging services.
Mobile technology also can assist a new mother by providing information geared to the exact age of her child through its first year of life. This is a way to reduce child mortality which – though much lower than in 1990 – still runs at 18,000 under-five-year-olds a day. Sub-Saharan Africa has shown the least progress in reducing the number of deaths of infants in the first month of life.
Access to information and communications technology (ICT) is not a problem in most of the developing world. Mobile phone networks now cover 96 percent of the world’s population, with 77 percent of the subscriptions held by nearly 90 percent of the population in low and middle-income countries. Even in places where electricity is in short supply, mobile phone users charge their phones through batteries, solar power and charging stations at rural stores, and are regular users.
As a result, services offering mobile health care information are proliferating. The newest, Zero Mothers Die, launched its service last week to improve maternal, newborn and child health by providing pregnant women and new mothers with mobile health information.