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Mobile phones deliver health to communities

By Dann Okoth | May 27th 2015 | 2 min read
Jackline Kumai Wata, 23 a Community Health Volunteer (CHV) from Imororo village in Kajiado County explains a point during a Health Enablement and Learning Platform (HELP), function in the county two weeks ago

Jackline Kumai Wata is a walking health tool.

The 23-year-old woman from impoverished Imororo village in Kajiado East Sub-County is a one-stop-shop for advice on maternal health, HIV and Aids, nutrition, non-communicable diseases personal hygiene and other community healthy issues.

She has achieved this status through an innovative approach to community health outreach.

Never mind that the mother of four did not go beyond Standard Six—and that she has never used a mobile handset for any other purpose than making and receiving a call.

But through the new and innovative initiative, Kumai is now part of the Health Enablement and Learning Platform (Help), which provides Ministry of Health-approved training content to community health volunteers.

"By the touch of a button I can communicate to an expectant woman who does not know where to get proper maternal care," says Kumai.

"I can also advise a couple on the best family planning option without having to meet them face to face," she adds.

Based on a sophisticated mobile learning methodology, Help works on all mobile phones (basic to smart), making it easier for health workers to help clients.

The Help programme has been developed through a cross-sector collaboration between Amref Health Africa, Accenture, Mezzanine, Safaricom and the the M-Pesa Foundation.

The innovative community health outreach model has the potential to reduce the cost of such undertakings by experts by more than 60 per cent.

"We believe in using technological advances to reach communities and meet their health needs," says Dr Peter Ngatia, director for Capacity Building at Amref Health Africa.

"That is why we piloted the Flying Doctors programme. However, mobile technology does not only deliver innovative community health solutions, it also cuts the cost of such undertakings," he adds.

In 2013, the cross-sectoral partnership piloted Help to train 318 community health workers  in three regions (urban, rural and nomadic) across Kenya. Help used a sophisticated mobile learning methodology on basic mobile technologies that allowed all health workers access to learning opportunities and enablement tools.

This complemented initial face-to-face training, enabling CHWs to learn at their own pace and with their own mobile devices while in the community, providing for both the interpersonal and community aspects of learning, with the reach and continuity of mobile-based learning.

Starting in September 2014, and running for 24 months, the programme is scaling up to 3,000 community health workers and 60 community health extension workers.

"In addition, we will continue to develop and enhance content; integrate with third party applications; develop a smart phone application, measure the health and skills impact and put in place a sustainable financial and operating model, which Amref Health Africa and Safaricom will drive forward nationally," says Jackline Kiarie of the eHealth Programme at Amref Health Africa.

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