Mobile phones and public health
March 4th, 2007

This IHT article says “to Rwanda’s top HIV/AIDS official, communication within the national health care system can be slow enough to present an actual threat to health”.Further,”the travel time cripples drug-supply management, prevents live tracking of disease outbreaks, undermines monitoring of health programs and delays delivery of laboratory test results back to patients.Enter Voxiva, a U.S. company that has built a system for individual health workers to send reports by cellphone directly from the field. First deployed five years ago to track disease outbreaks in the Amazon basin, Voxiva’s system is also being used in Indonesia for avian flu reporting and in India to test a new drug for leishmaniasis, a disease spread by sand flies.In Rwanda, the system started tracking HIV/AIDS patients two years ago and now connects 75 percent of the country’s 340 clinics, covering a total of 32,000 patients.By identifying individual patients in a central database, we can now follow up on individual patients, even when they change clinics,” Nyaruhirira said. “The wonderful thing with Rwanda is that mobile phones are everywhere.”
Leveraging use of mobile phones makes sense across the developing world, said Howard Zuckerman, assistant director general of health technology and pharmaceuticals at the World Health Organization.”I was recently in Mozambique and saw a child who looked extremely malnourished, and unwashed standing next to a stream with dirty water,” Zuckerman said. “The remarkable thing is that this same child was speaking on a mobile phone.”Phones could also fight the growing scourge of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, Zuckerman added.”SMS messages could be used by patients to authenticate code numbers on individual bottles,” he said. “We have only barely started exploring the uses for mobile phones in public health.”

Cellphones open front in global fight against disease

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