Global health officials attending a healthcare information technology round table in New York on Tuesday called on information technology providers to create "scalable, cost-effective" mobile-health solutions for low-resource countries.
"I think what everybody has discovered is that mobile technology is a cheap and effective way to provide everything from a reminder letting a woman know that she is due for a checkup to identifying stock-outs on drugs and condoms so they can be replenished in a timely fashion," said Kathy Calvin, CEO of the United Nations Foundation, a founder the global mHealth Alliance. "What we haven't gotten is a scaled-up marketplace that will help us understand what is needed and how to do it," Calvin added.
The round table was part of a special United Nations summit on its Millennium Development Goals project—a 10-year effort aimed at substantially reducing worldwide poverty by 2015. The eight goals, established by the U.N. in 2005, include three health-specific targets that global leaders have determined substantially contribute to the cycle of poverty. Those targets are reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS.
Calvin and other round-table participants called on IT providers to work with low-resource communities to develop useful and appropriate mobile-health tools. Such tools should include mobile-health applications that can be navigated easily by illiterate populations as well as vehicles for delivering medical education and patient information to providers.
The question is "how can we use technology to address these issues," said Salma Abbasi, chairwoman and founder of the technology consultancy e Worldwide Group. "There are multiple initiatives under way, but they are all disconnected from the local ground realities. We can't drop solutions on communities. They have to be mobilized to work with us."