mHealth: Healthcare Reaching Remote Places with Mobile Phones and SMS

Mercy (pictured with Maeghan Ray Orton from Medic Mobile) at UMCom workshop in Malawi

Posted by TechChange alumnus, Neelley Hicks, ICT4D Director of United Methodist Communications.

Mobile phones seem to be everywhere in Africa, and they’re keeping people in touch with health, education, banking, and community empowerment.

“Email and Facebook are problems…but this text messaging – it’s no problem,” says Betty Kazadi Musau who lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In early August 2013, I spent the week with Mercy Chikhosi Nyirongo, who provides healthcare in communities in Malawi. Recently, she took an online course through TechChange called “Mobile Phones for Public Health.” She wondered what impact mobile phones could have on her health program in Madisi, so she conducted a test.

The problem: HIV+ men were not coming to the support group and health management classes.

The test: Separate into two control groups – one would receive text reminders about the next meeting and the other would not.

The results: Out of the 20 who did not receive text messages, five attended. Out of the 30 who did receive text messages, 25 attended and were standing in queue when she arrived.

One client said, “You reached me where I was.” This isn’t a small thing. Often community health workers walk miles to find someone only to learn they are away. But the mobile phones stay with the person – making them much easier to reach.

Mercy conducted this test directly through her mobile phone and it took her nearly all day. But with FrontlineSMS, she can enter mobile numbers easily for group messaging. She said, “After the online course, the UMCom workshop (in Blantyre), and these conversations, my eyes have become wide open.”

Join us in our next round of Mobiles for International Development and mHealth: Mobiles for Public Health online courses! 

To read the original post on Neelley’s blog, “Stories in ICT4D”, please click here.


  • E-Health Records

    Thanks for sharing this poignant story and highlighting UMCom’s great work in Africa. By leveraging these ubiquitous tools that have already been adopted we are becoming closer to using these tools for the greatest good. Onward!

  • ronald fuchs

    remote as we may seem in South Dakota, I am drawing social security at 62 due to health problems, am uninsured. Our state legislature would not expand medicaid to 48,000 uninsureds- a new pre-exsisting condition-here-poverty. I do not live with much including internet (using a local place), cable TV or cell phones. My nearest drive to a low-income clinic is 50-70 miles one way. So tech is nice but people like me do not use it because I can not afford it, from the outback in America.

  • halehawk

    United Methodist Communications is sponsoring ANOTHER great workshop on September 3-5 in Nashville. “The Game Changer’s Summit” has a great line up of speakers worth hearing. The UM Church works closely with Frontline SMS and others to promote social good.

    Check it out.

    The Rev. Holly Boardman

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