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Health Experts, Mobile Service Providers Discuss Potential For Mobile Health In Africa At Summit

“Some 80 health professionals and telecom operators [met last week for the mHealth Africa Summit] in the Ghanaian capital Accra to explore ways to use mobile phones for better healthcare delivery,” IRIN reports in an article that details a variety of successful projects relaying health information through cell phones in Africa. The article describes how mobile phones are being used in Africa to educate populations about HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and improve maternal health, as well as to track medicines and other health supplies, including mosquito nets.

“An estimated 450 million people in Africa use mobile phones for everyday personal and business communications, but the technology is becoming increasingly useful for overburdened health workers struggling to reach large numbers of patients with few resources,” the news service writes (12/3).

VOA News reports on how mobile phones are helping to connect patients in remote regions to health care services. The article describes how health workers in Bangalore, India, use cell phones to relay patient data gathered in remote regions back to hospitals for diagnosis. According to VOA News, the technology is currently being used “to help find cancer in early stages when it’s still treatable.”

The article describes research examining how mobile phones could be used to create a “phone-based vaccination registry.” The piece quotes Moni Abraham, who heads the Department of Cancer at Narayan Hriduyalya hospital in India, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as several industry representatives (Sinha, 12/3).

In related news, KNA/Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reports the country recently launched a program that will allow consumers to uncover whether their medications are counterfeit through text messages. “Even though similar systems have been tried in Ghana and more recently in Nigeria, this is believed to be the first time the use of such an approach – known as the mPedigree platform has been endorsed at cabinet level,” according to the news service. “Esther Ogara, Manager of Kenya’s e-Health policy, said that the adoption of the mPedigree platform in Kenya would help nip in the bud the growing prevalence of counterfeit medicines,” KNA/KBC writes.

The article details additional ways countries are using mobile phones to address health issues in Africa, as described by participants at the mHealth Africa Summit, including Lloyd Matowe of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who “described … the need for new technologies to monitor effective and equitable distribution on the large quantities of funds going into new programs in health in Africa,” according to the news service. “He said that it is very important for medicines that are being subsidised in the 9-country pilot to reach the poor and needy, and technologies such as mobile phone applications can help prevent abuse,” KNA/KBC writes (Wanja, 12/3).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.