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Improving knowledge on mHealth

January 23, 2015

With the increasing global accessibility of mobile phones and wireless services, mobile technologies are revolutionizing the way health, education and social services are developed, implemented and evaluated.

How can mobile technologies be leveraged to help low- and middle-income countries deliver better health information and services?

This question was the focus of the recent 2014 Global mHealth Forum at the mHealth Summit in Washington, DC, sponsored in part by FHI 360 and hosted by the mHealth Working Group and Personal Connected Health Alliance. Public- and private-sector organizations shared evidence, experiences and lessons learned on designing, implementing and scaling new applications and approaches in mHealth.

As a member of the mHealth Working Group Advisory Board, FHI 360 supported the design and organization of the forum and co-led two of the tracks on evidence and local ownership.

FHI 360 staff also participated in several panel presentations, including:

  • Your phone is your wallet: The latest in mobile money: Ataur Rahman, FHI 360’s team leader for the Mobile Solutions Technical Assistance and Research (mSTAR) project in Bangladesh, explained how mSTAR supports efforts to accelerate and adopt mobile money and electronic payments within U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs, especially those on health and agriculture.
  • Does this work: Tools and results from evidence grading: Kelly L’Engle, behavioral scientist at FHI 360, shared tools, applications and results from the World Health Organization-sponsored mHealth Technical and Evidence Review Group. She discussed a new tool for grading the quality of evidence emerging from mHealth solutions being applied to improve reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health.

    L’Engle also presented results from a review that evaluated and graded the evidence on mHealth approaches to adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Among other findings, the review concluded that there is a lack of evidence coming from low- and middle-income countries. The 35 evaluated studies scored high on overall methodological reporting quality but low on mHealth reporting quality. The studies also suggest positive impact from using mHealth to increase access among young people to sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening and reproductive health information, and that using text messages may increase adherence to daily oral contraceptive pills and antiretroviral medication among young people with HIV.
  • Evidence-informed design works for youth: This panel, moderated by Cate Lane, youth advisor at USAID, focused on using evidence, theory and design principles to strategically develop mHealth approaches and content for young people. FHI 360’s Kelly L’Engle presented Mobile for Reproductive Health (m4RH) — FHI 360’s award-winning text message reproductive health information service. Panelists explained how the Rwandan government and its partners adapted m4RH to address a full range of sexual and reproductive health issues that affect Rwanda’s young people. A panelist from Pathfinder provided details on their mCENAS project, which uses the m4RH approach to behavior change in Mozambique. A panelist from the World Health Organization discussed the ARMADILLO study, which will be a rigorous evaluation of the effect of an m4RH-for-youth derivative on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and an assessment of how the m4RH derivative contributes to coverage of health information and services among young people.
  • K4Health mHealth tools and portfolio (roundtable): Trinity Zan, technical advisor at FHI 360, and Nandini Jayarajan of the John Hopkins Center for Communications, co-facilitated a discussion on the K4Health project’s mHealth portfolio. The roundtable introduced participants to, a new portal that provides evidence, repositories, tools and guidance, including the mHealth Planning Guide and the mHealth Basics eLearning Course, both of which FHI 360 helped to develop.

Learn more about m4RH and FHI 360’s work in mHealth and other mobile technology initiatives. Read a blog that offers reflections on the mHealth forum and another that discusses the importance of using mHealth approaches to reach youth.