Kenya: Pilot to gauge mHealth training potential
By Dominic Tyer:
A mobile health training programme for community health workers in Kenya is set to be piloted. Run by the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) the mHealthproject will focus on maternal health information and education and has the potential to bring healthcare services to thousands of people across Africa.
Director general Dr Teguest Guerma said: “Mobile devices allow health workers to access information with minimal limitations of cost. We believe that such devices will contribute significantly towards improving health outcomes and well-being of the communities we work with.
“As mobile phone usage in Africa is booming, there is a clear opportunity to use mobile phones as educational tools. This real time access to on-demand skills training will allow health workers to increase their effectiveness and employability.”
In sub-Saharan countries such as Kenya mobile services provide all forms of telecommunications, to an extent not seen in any other part of the world. While exact statistics are hard to come by, mobile operators association the GSMA found in 2010 that across the region there were 28 mobile connections for each fixed line subscription.
AMREF will equip 300 community health workers with job skills over the next 10 months, backed by funding from two of its partners. Consultancy Accenture has put up $1.4m and telecoms firm Vodafone will give up to $600,000.
Founded in 1957 as the Flying Doctor Service of East Africa, the health training AMREF provides latterly has expanded to include electronic learning and mobile learning.
Accenture's managing director of corporate citizenship Jill Huntley said: “Supporting AMREF helps exemplify Accenture's commitment to building skills and improving the communities in which we live and work. AMREF is proving it's possible to develop replicable and scalable programmes that teach crucial, even lifesaving, job skills.”
The pilot's partners also include Safaricom, Vodafone's affiliate in Kenya, technology partner Mezzanine and the Kenyan Ministry of Health, which will provide regulatory advice and access to community health workers.
mHealth projects have also been run in Africa by several pharmaceutical companies including Novartis, whose SMS for Life aims to prevent stock shortages of antimalarial drugs, and GlaxoSmithKline, which is coming to the end of a one-year pilot to see if mobile technology can increase childhood vaccination rates.