Blog 2 (Fall 2016) – Mobile Health and Malaria Prevention in Africa, by Cristina Delmundo

According to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2013, every 30 seconds a child dies from Malaria. Although Malaria is curable, in Africa over 2,800 lives are lost daily because of Malaria. “Of the close 2000 people who die from Malaria each day, most are children under five years of age in sub-Saharan Africa” (WHO, 2013). Distributing medicines in developing countries is often a huge challenge. According to WHO, a lack of reliable, cost effective communication and monitoring tools makes tracking stock levels problematical, particularly in remote places. And without real-time visibility of the supply chain, it is almost impossible to ensure the right drugs are available where they are most needed (WHO, 2013). Widespread stock-outs lead to deaths on a daily basis because it prevents patients from receiving treatment that they need. SMS for Life is a mobile health cellular phone application that harnesses everyday technology to improve access to malaria medicines and other essential drugs in rural areas of developing countries. It uses a combination of mobile phones, SMS messages; tablet PCs, the Internet and electronic mapping technology to SMS. According to Vodafone mHealth Solutions, in Tanzania, SMS for Life is “designed to help capture, analyze and distribute data on the stock levels of five types of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) and quinine-based malaria drugs in the most remote reaches of the Tanzanian Public Health System” (Vodafone mHealth Solutions). According to Novartis, a large pharmaceutical company working in partnership with SMS for Life, the apps track periodic stock levels at public health facilities in order to: eliminate stock-outs, increase access to essential medicines, reduce the number of deaths from malaria, report periodic key disease surveillance indicators, deliver electronic training programs and health-related educational resources to primary healthcare facilities (Novartis). According to Novartis:
• Once a week text messages are sent to each health facility reminding them to count their stock and send back their data.
• If they respond by 5pm on Friday afternoon they receive free credit on their mobile phones – an incentive for a fast response.
• If no response is received, the system automatically sends a reminder text message. All of these actions are fully automated with no manual intervention required.
Also, SMS for Life dispatches team members to visit health care facilities across Tanzania and train healthcare workers how to use the apps to help combat Malaria. According to an article from Malaria.com, “When SMS for Life was initially launched in 2009, 26% of all health facilities did not have any ACTs in stock, but by the end, 99% of all health facilities had at least one ACT dosage form in stock”. Furthermore, SMS for Life has successfully made available all malaria treatments to 888,000 people in three pilot districts across three districts in Tanzania representing 1.2 million people versus 264,000 people at the start of the pilot program in 2009 helping to reduce the number of deaths caused by malaria (Malaria.com).

REFERENCES

Malaria.com. (2011, April 18). SMS for Life” Malaria Initiative for Tanzania Announced. Retrieved Oct. 7, 2016, from Malaria.com : http://www.malaria.com/news/sms-for-life-malaria-tanzania
Novatis. (n.d.). SMS for life. Novatis Malaria Iniative. Retrieved Oct. 5, 2016, from http://malaria.novartis.com/innovation/sms-for-life/index.shtml
Vedafone Global Enterprises. (2010, Oct. 21). SMS for Life – Using SMS to save lives in remote locations . You Tube. Retrieved Oct. 4, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUtcUJhRZFc
Vodafone mHealth Solutions. (n.d.). SMS for Life Managing the Malaria Supply Chain. Vodafone Acess to Medicine. Retrieved Oct. 5, 2016, from http://warnocksescapades.com/calendar/Vodafone%20mHealth%20solutions%20datasheet%20SMS%20for%20life.pdf
World Health Organization. (2013). Preventing stock-outs of antimalarial drugs in sub-Saharan Africa . Novartis’s SMS for Life. Retrieved Oct. 4, 2016, from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/92817/1/WHO_RHR_13.12_eng.pdf

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