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.
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.
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.
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.
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.