Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cell Phones Vital New Tool For Health In Africa

Who would have thought ten years ago that cell phones would help to save lives! This is exactly what is happening in Africa. In order to boost health by targeting the continent's 624 million mobile phone subscribers, some African countries are using cell phones to send a health-related text messages to the clients or to call for health related emergencies. The free texts from South Africa's largest HIV treatment site, Praekelt Foundation are an example, where patients use cell phones to remind themselves to make appointments and pick up a fresh batch of anti-AIDS drugs. The txtAlert reminder costs only 14 US cents per patient per month, making it financially viable, with roughly 10,000 subscribers. As a result, missed appointments at the centre fell from 15% in mid-2007, to just 4% today.

In West Africa, 2,200 doctors in Ghana and 143 doctors in Liberia have signed on to anti-poverty group Africa Aid's MDNet network, allowing them to call or text other physicians for free. In Ghana, a national directory helps find the number to call. Already more than 2.5 million calls have been made so far on the network. Africa is poor in landlines and hospital beds but rich in cell phones. For this reason, from Rwanda to Uganda to Senegal, cell phones are now being used as a tool to solve many problems of daily life. While cell phones are being used for applications from quizzes promoting good behavior in Uganda, they are being used to coordinate health workers in Senegal, and solve problems such as a lack of specialists and specialized services in rural areas in Rwanda.

"I wish it could be duplicated in every African country. If only they could hook up every single health worker -- nurse, midwife -- onto the system," said Ghanaian pediatrician Frank Serebour. Seeing the massive positive impact of cell phones in Africa and how they can enrich peoples' lives, we wish that too.

-Nisha Noor

Source: Google News