“All you need to do is download the app and punch in your details. The rest is easy, every time you long in, you will get information about your current state and reminders about medical appointments or tests you need to take.” Dr. Seita Akihiro, Director of UNRWA Department of Health, is very proud of the Mother and Child Health mobile application that the Department of Health at UNRWA launched in Jordan in 2017 and has rolled out in the other four fields of UNRWA operations since the beginning of 2019. With over 91,000 registered pregnant women and nearly 425,000 infants and children aged 0-5 in 2018, this app is a breakthrough in the Agency’s ability to store and access data about its patients and follow-up on their health situation. It helps signal to them, action that they need to take to remain healthy, when needed.
The Mother and Child Health application is based on the UNRWA flagship handbook on the same issue and contains essential information about the course of pregnancy, delivery, postnatal care, childcare and family planning, and seeks to promote and maintain the health of the mother and child. The Palestinian Mother and Child Health Handbook, the first in the Arabic language and the first in the region, was produced by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and UNRWA in cooperation with relevant stakeholders in 2012. Seeing how successful the handbook was in promoting health awareness and dispelling myths around reproductive issues, UNRWA launched in January 2019 this application, allowing mothers or prospective mothers to receive regular notifications on their gestation, nursing, hygiene and other topics relevant to their state.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the objective of maternal and child health services is to reduce maternal and childhood illness and death. Pregnancy can provide an opportunity to identify existing health risks in women and prevent future health problems for women and their children. These health risks may include hypertension, gestational diabetes and heart disease, and can easily be captured through this app.
“Maternal health, which is the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the post-partum period is a major challenge in most developing countries,” says Dr. Seita, “especially when access to maternal health care services, such as antenatal care (ANC), delivery care and postnatal care is difficult. This app helps ensure a positive and fulfilling experience, in most cases, and helps reduce maternal illness and death, in other cases. This is considered cutting-edge. It is truly futuristic and this is the direction that the world is taking, using technology to ensure wellbeing.”
All UNRWA health facilities are equipped with Wifi, thus making it easy for regular patients to update their information or obtain new guidance when they connect. The app also carries nursery rhymes and lullabies that mothers can use to sooth their children, as well as more personal virtual space for families to store photos.
“This is like a personal doctor and a book keeper in one,” said one patient waiting to be examined. “It sends me reminders about my appointments and about my children’s routine check-ups. It is like having a personal nurse shadowing you. An application that tracks the health of mother and child: every pregnant women’s dream!”
The Mother and Child Health application is connected to the UNRWA e-health system, an Agency-wide medial data storage space where information about all patients and medical visits is stored in electronic health records. With 8.5 million medical visits in 2018, these online records ensure easy access to any patient’s medical file whenever needed. “This is truly revolutionary in the world of information management and medicine,” says Dr. Seita. “For an Agency that is spread across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria to have all medical data in one virtual place is something to showcase with a lot of pride.”