How to address midwife shortages? Go mobile

A mobile phone. Photo by: Joshua Davis / CC BY-SA

A text or voice message – that’s how pregnant women in Ghana are gaining free access to health information and tips that help ensure safe pregnancies.

How? Through Mobile Midwife, an innovative service that allows pregnant women to receive maternal health information and other tips on their mobile phones – free of charge.

mHealth services like Mobile Midwife are fast gaining popularity among donors and aid agencies eager to tap the continuous spread of mobile technologies in their development efforts. Remote data collection, remote monitoring, health care worker training, disease and outbreak tracking, diagnostic and treatment support – these are just a few of the numerous existing applications.

And more uses and projects can be expected as donors like the U.S. Agency for International Development begin to get involved in the increasingly vibrant field of mhealth. Mobile Midwife, in fact, is the result of rising donor attention to mHealth services; it was developed as part of the U.S.-based Grameen Foundation’s MOTECH Ghana initiative, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mobile Midwife focuses on education and awareness. Pregnant women register to get reminders for specific treatments, information about milestones in fetal development, nutrition facts, tips on the benefits of breastfeeding and other pregnancy-related and prenatal health information. It also provides information that debunks local pregnancy and health myths and helps users overcome the widespread fear of visiting doctors or health clinics.

The service is personalized: Users get to choose how often to receive information, in what format – either voice or text message – and in what language. Choices include English, Kasem or Nakam, the latter two being the main languages in Ghana’s Upper East Region, where the service is initially available. The initiative proves: Information isn’t just power, it’s life.

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About the author

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.