Texting your way to health
15 February 2013 | 3889 Views
Message telling you when and how to take your diabetes medication. Or a voice mail reminding you of your next mammogram. That's what two UN agencies are hoping to do with mobile technology to save lives, reduce illness and disability and bring down healthcare costs.
Increased access to communications technologies has given rise to the concept of "mobile health," or mHealth, involving the use of mobile phones for healthcare purposes. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) are currently testing mobile solutions to help people with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, cardiovascular maladies, respiratory diseases and cancer to better manage their conditions. The agencies also hope to encourage people to quit smoking, exercise more and eat healthier.
An estimated 36 million people die every year from NCDs in both developed and developing countries alike, according to WHO. They also account for a major share of health care needs and expenditures. In the next decade deaths from NCDs in Africa will jump by 24 per cent, the agency forecasts.
ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Tour√É¬© believes that these diseases can be controlled through the intervention of mHealth initiatives. "Technological innovations are changing the landscape of disease prevention and control," he said. "The widespread availability of mobile technology, including in many of the least developed countries, is an exceptional opportunity to expand the use of e-health" (which includes computer, Web, mobile phone and other electronic technologies). He was speaking in Dubai at Telecom World 2012, a yearly event at which experts, policy makers and leaders come together to share ideas on the future of global telecommunications.
The initiative builds on current projects like WHO's use of mobile devices to gather data on tobacco use in 17 countries, covering half the world's population. Mobile phones have also been shown to help health care providers offer better care and deter harmful practices. In Kenya, according to a recent study, government health care workers were sent text messages coaching them on the proper malaria-treatment protocol. Health clinic workers can send alerts when they run low on medications to avoid stock shortages.
By early 2012, says ITU, there were more than 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide, with developing countries accounting for the lion's share of growth. In that context, mHealth could be one of the best ways to reach huge numbers of patients and care providers.
However, warns Harsha Thirumurthy, an economist whose research focuses on the link between health and economic outcomes in low-income settings, several aspects of the mHealth interventions warrant further research. In the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, he and Richard T. Lester strongly recommend a more thorough investigation of how text-messaging interventions compare with other interventions such as feeding programmes or home visits by community workers. They also bring up issues of cost ' who will foot the bill remains unclear. If not the health care providers, are patients willing to pay for the service? Furthermore, it remains to be seen if mHealth can help induce behavioural change and get people to better adhere to treatment regimens for diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.
Source: Africa Renewal www.un.org
Most Read Stories
- Yes it's Mujuru in short trousers, farming - Photos | 17879 views
- Mugabe believes that only Tsvangirai can save Zimbabwe | 12643 views
- 'Locks and Knives in Yeoville,' dissecting how Zim woman's thighs became a trap | 11758 views
- Joice Mujuru's response to Mugabe - Full text | 10099 views
- 5-year-old son of a Zimbabwean couple falls from 14th floor in SA | 9544 views
- Tsvangirai alliance with Zanu-PF shocking | 8664 views
Zanda Shumba | 29 March 2015 | 2636 Views
Staff reporter | 29 March 2015 | 4787 Views
Staff reporter | 29 March 2015 | 1242 Views
Staff Reporter | 29 March 2015 | 2580 Views
Thobekile Zhou | 29 March 2015 | 4466 Views
Sean Mukasa | 29 March 2015 | 2876 Views
This n that with Maluphosa - Clerk Ndlovu | 29 March 2015 | 2823 Views
Walter Mswazie | 29 March 2015 | 1580 Views
Fairness Moyana | 29 March 2015 | 2485 Views
Moyo Roy | 29 March 2015 | 4526 Views
Thobekile Zhou | 29 March 2015 | 2818 Views
Staff Reporter | 29 March 2015 | 3302 Views
Stephen Jakes | 29 March 2015 | 1986 Views
Tholakele Zhou | 29 March 2015 | 3648 Views
Stephen Jakes | 29 March 2015 | 2636 Views
Staff Reporter | 29 March 2015 | 2296 Views
Staff Reporter | 29 March 2015 | 3690 Views
Staff reporter | 29 March 2015 | 2163 Views
Vusumuzi Dube | 29 March 2015 | 2106 Views
Staff Reporter | 29 March 2015 | 2606 Views
Mncedisi Buhali | 29 March 2015 | 1841 Views
Staff Reporter | 29 March 2015 | 1199 Views
Joram Nyathi | 29 March 2015 | 1174 Views
Lincoln Towindo | 29 March 2015 | 1280 Views
Staff Reporter | 29 March 2015 | 1644 Views
Staff reporter | 29 March 2015 | 2773 Views
Debra Matabvu | 29 March 2015 | 1721 Views
Staff reporter | 29 March 2015 | 2333 Views
Stephen Jakes | 29 March 2015 | 1387 Views
Staff reporter | 29 March 2015 | 1972 Views
Kadoma Directory | 28 March 2015 | 1366 Views
Staff Reporter | 27 March 2015 | 4256 Views
Staff reporter | 26 March 2015 | 2164 Views
Arts reporter | 26 March 2015 | 858 Views
Staff Reporter | 25 March 2015 | 1210 Views
Staff reporter | 25 March 2015 | 7913 Views
Staff reporter | 23 March 2015 | 5623 Views
Staff reporter | 23 March 2015 | 8980 Views