International Telecommunication Union   ITU
 
 
Site Map Contact us Print Version
 Monday, February 27, 2012

Recent mobile phone initiatives in Bangladesh are allowing patients to reach a health worker for advice at no cost 24 hours a day, receive prenatal care reminders and even send complaints about patient care.

“It is difficult to manage doctors for [a national population of] 140 million people. We are using mobile phone service to bridge this treatment gap“, Abul Kalam Azad, a senior official at the Directorate General of Health Services, told IRIN.

Close to 60 percent of the population - some 85 million people - use mobile phones in Bangladesh, according to a December 2011 report from the country’s telecommunications regulatory commission.

Cut off from formal medical care, some patients turn to untrained or “fake” doctors, leading to fatal remedies, said Azad, who wants to counter this trend with sound health advice.

Since 2009, the government has provided cell phones to 482 sub-district and district government hospitals, which are used as round-the-clock hotlines staffed by health workers.

Nationwide there is one doctor for every 3,200 residents and one hospital bed for every 1,738 people, according to government data published in 2011.

While this proportion of doctors to residents exceeds the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended minimum of one doctor per 10,000 residents to ensure basic health services, the picture in rural areas is markedly different.

“There are many hard-to-reach areas where it is difficult for the people to quickly rush to the hospitals. These people are getting health advice by the mobile phone health service”, said Azad. The country is in the bottom 20 countries ranked by NGO Save the Children for health workers’ ability to reach patients in need.

(Source: IRIN News)
Furhter details