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 Sunday, November 21, 2010
Simple mobile technology, like basic cell phones, can be used to save the lives of mothers in childbirth, and improve the care of newborns and children, reaching underserved populations in remote areas. The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) praises innovation seen at the second mHealth Conference in Washington, and PMNCH Partners’ Forum in New Delhi.

More advanced mobile technology can do even more, such as checking on patients, keeping records, improving diagnosis and treatment in the field, and letting community health workers consult general practitioners and specialists for guidance."With mobile technologies for health, called ‘mhealth’ or ‘mobile health,’ we’re extending capabilities to where they don’t exist today", says David Aylward, who heads mHealth Alliance, a partnership founded by the United Nations Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation.

"At the most basic level, mobile phones can be used to keep track of people, call for emergency assistance, remind them of appointments and share information", says Julian Schweitzer, PhD, former Chair of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Care (PMNCH) and the Chair of the Finance Working Group for the UN Secretary-General's Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, launched in September. "But then you can layer on things like check lists, protocols, the steps to ensure a safe birth and action instructions in particular circumstances", says Dr. Schweitzer.

Used by midwives in rural, urban slums and isolated areas, cell phones can also be attached to diagnostic devices, including those used for remote fetal monitoring or remote wireless ultrasound. This lets a midwife or health worker know in advance that a mother must get to a clinic. They can also be used for recording births and deaths or assuring that both women and children get the care they need when and where they need it.

"In the near future, wireless diagnostics like stethoscopes, blood pressure, temperature and insulin monitors, and ultrasounds will enable remote diagnosis and treatment far from the closest doctor or clinic", says Mr. Aylward.

(Source: PMNCH and World Health Organization)

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