January 2, 2013 | Foundation
Technology will help to improve prenatal care and chronic malnourishment in Uganda
Thanks to a grant from the Verizon Foundation, technology is slated to improve prenatal care and chronic malnourishment in Uganda
A perspective by Anthony Llompart, Director of Healthcare Philanthropy and International at Verizon Foundation
In the country of Uganda, only half of expectant mothers receive prenatal consultations, a critical aspect to delivering a healthy baby. About 15% of children in the country are so chronically malnourished their growth is stunted.
But, researchers believe the use of mobile technology can educate the community and potentially make a difference in these alarming statistics. The willingness to take on such an important health issue seemed a perfect match for the type of work I oversee at the Verizon Foundation. That’s why we partnered with the University of Notre Dame’s Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies, to launch a program that uses text messaging to provide improved health information and communication technology to a village health team in Uganda’s Nnindye Parish. Ford researchers and their local partners at Uganda Martyrs University (UMU) hope better information access will increase rates of prenatal care for pregnant women and lower malnutrition among children.
The approach is quite simple. Ford’s mobile health project will equip the local health center with cell phone-messaging software and low-power computers, making it an effective hub for monitoring community health. Health team members will receive training in mobile literacy—including texting—and then pass on their new skills to hundreds of other Nnindye residents. As a result, health center workers will be able to send messages reminding women of prenatal or well-baby appointments or to spread the word when supplies such as anti-malarial bed nets or vaccines become available. The new technology will also allow Nnindye healthcare workers to keep more consistent, detailed records of care and put in place a referral system for emergency care. The end result, we hope, will be a community utilizing mobile technology to improve the quality of life for some of its youngest residents.
In addition, a Notre Dame research team will study the impact of the updated technology on health outcomes of the Ugandan village residents and will also study whether using text messages to spread health information successfully encourages more people to take advantage of the available medical resources.
This work is a perfect match for the Verizon Foundation. Our strategy includes leveraging technology resources to improve healthcare quality and access for rural and urban children, women and seniors. Our primary focus in healthcare is to reduce disparities and enable better chronic disease outcomes for underserved communities through health information technology that educates and empowers patients to self-manage their health.
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