Using Cell Phones to Strengthen Health Services: Programme Mwana Launched by Ministry of Health
Innovative Mobile Health Initiative
Lusaka, ZAMBIA, 17 November 2011 – The Ministry of Health and partners today launched “Programme Mwana,” a Zambian mhealth (mobile health) initiative to improve early infant HIV diagnostic services, post-natal follow-up, and care. The technology will be used to send results of HIV tests from laboratories to health facilities as well as communicate with community health workers and caregivers.
Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr. Peter Mwaba today launched the programme which will improve children’s chances for a healthy life by relaying test results faster and allowing for an early start of treatment for HIV positive children. Dr. Mwaba said that Programme Mwana was complimenting Government efforts of strengthening health systems.
“mHealth is a complimentary strategy for strengthening health systems and achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals. The broad range of potential benefits to the health sector that the simple functions of mobile phones can provide should not be understated,” Dr. Mwaba said.
Programme Mwana was piloted in 13 districts in six provinces starting in February 2010 with the goal of scaling up nationwide by 2014. So far, more than 3,000 infant HIV test results have been relayed with reduced turnaround times of around 50 percent, having a great positive impact on rural facilities that previously depended on results to be transported by road.
Speaking on behalf of cooperating partners that include UNICEF, Boston University affiliate the Zambia Centre for Applied Heath Research and Development, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and the Zambia Prevention, Care and Treatment Partnership, UNICEF Deputy Representative Shaya Asindua commended the Government for the initiative.
“Allow me to congratulate the Government of Zambia through the Ministry of Health for this tangible demonstration of commitment to child survival and development. Mobile technology presents a unique opportunity in the health sector. New approaches such as this can contribute to reducing under-5 mortality and maternal mortality and deliver services to those who are marginalized and excluded,” she said.
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