Prematurity is the leading global cause of death in children under 5. Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm, and this number is rising. Massive gaps in our understanding and a lack of reliable data continue to undermine worldwide efforts to prevent preterm births.
An exciting period of opportunity for digital health services has arisen in Ethiopia. The government has flagged investment in digital health information management systems as a priority. For the first time, this has led to an openness toward exploring and piloting digital health solutions.
Digital health solutions offer the potential to bridge these information divides and to strengthen health systems while extending the reach and quality of evidence-based, life-saving interventions to pregnant women.
Supported by a grant from Born on Time, a public-private partnership that is implementing several interventions to support the prevention of preterm birth, World Vision Ethiopia engaged with technology partner SLK TECHLABS to deploy mobile health screening kits with an internet-driven telemedicine capability in the Amhara region.
These mobile health kits include a mobile phone app and diagnostic equipment, including ultrasound, that captures key vitals and assesses pregnant women for risk factors of preterm birth and other obstetric complications.
The kits are used by trained outreach health care providers who are also linked with enhanced telemedicine at referral hospitals. This enables timely management of any areas of concern and encourages families to seek skilled attendants for potential preterm births. The kits can also be moved easily from village to village, which maximises access to these essential services for more women living in remote areas.