Africa: U.N. Launches Mobile Phone Health Initiative

A farmer in Ghana uses his cell phone to access information. The U.N.’s mHealth initiative will also help him to receive alerts about his health, medications and other important health related information. (Google Images)

Jocelyne Sambira of is reporting that the United Nations will launch a mobile phone health initiative to save lives, reduce illness and disability and bring down healthcare costs. Sambira writes:

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, in a similar way that phones for elderly citizens could promote healthy living among senior residents.

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 Touré believes that these diseases can be controlled through the intervention of mHealth initiatives.

Rwanda, Kenya and Ghana have made the most progress in adopting information and communications technology, according to a new report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Critics of the initiative want to measure the impact of mHealth programs in comparison to food programs and want to know who will cover costs associated with the mHealth program.


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