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Thursday, 20 June 2019 10:56

Adapting Technology to Reach Rural Communities

Communication for Health launched a mobile application to promote maternal, newborn and child health in Ethiopia.

Despite major gains in the health system in the last decade, Ethiopia still remains among countries with the highest maternal and newborn deaths in the world. Many women and their families prefer to give birth at home with untrained traditional birth attendants and also skip essential services such as postnatal care and immunization. On the other hand, economic and infrastructure growth in the country has created opportunities for the public health system. For example, mobile phone subscriptions in Ethiopia have reached more than 60 million according to Ethio Telecom Corporation, and the project’s baseline study showed that 50% of rural households have at least one mobile phone. Taking this opportunity, Communication for Health designed a mobile app that provides accurate and relevant information on key health issues such as family planning; maternal and child health; and malaria. The app is called Hulu Beteina in Amharic, roughly translated as all is possible with health. It works on both Android as well as feature phones that are mostly available in rural areas. It is tailored for people who have limited ability to read and write, and whose use of mobile phones is narrow.

The app reads out its contents for users who cannot read. The content is organized as per life stages so that it is easier for users to navigate through information. It contains interactive features such as ANC scheduling, where a mother can enter the first day of her last period and the app tells her when she should go to the health center for routine ANC checkup. Similar scheduling tool for child immunization is included along with a child growth monitoring tool.

Given that most mobile phones in households are in the hands of fathers, the app also contains a section for men, which informs them how they can better engage and support their families for healthier lives. It encourages couples’ communication around issues that affect their families.

The app works completely offline and is easy to transfer from one phone to another via Bluetooth. It is currently available in three local languages – Amharic, Afaan Oromo, and Tigrigna. Communication for Health developed the app in collaboration with the Maternal and Child Health Directorate of the Federal Ministry of Health. The Ministry has taken full ownership of the app through its Health Information Technology Directorate, who will be responsible for any future updates. The project, the Ministry and the Regional Health Bureaus are working with the public health system to distribute the application to users.

Read 575 times Last modified on Thursday, 20 June 2019 21:37
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