Mobile Phones ‘Powerful’ in Promoting Health, Advocates Say


This week in Washington policy, health, telecommunication and development representatives have gathered to draft strategies to improve healthcare systems through mobile technology in developed and developing communities alike. The “mHealth Summit” is designed to “advance the discussion around ways mobile technology can increase the access, efficiency and effectiveness of health systems.” While basic needs, like those outlined in the UN Millennium Development Goals, are still waiting to be realized in many parts of the world new, creative solutions are required in order to meet them.


As mobile phone use is dramatically increasing across Africa the potential to use these resources to increase the efficiency of health care systems is remarkable. In fact of the “five billion subscribers today, almost 70 percent of them are in the developing world.” These devices are a reliable resource to send information, in some cases medicinal, from remote areas previously disconnected from available resources. For example, one village could immediately notify another when health care professionals or medical supplies are nearby.


Mobile technology initiatives have already proven to be successful in increasing the efficiency of healthcare in Africa. In Uganda, mobile phones have dramatically reduced the diagnosis time for HIV positive infants from three months to two weeks. Local clinics in isolated areas can send blood samples to hospitals which test the sample and return the results via SMS. This allows the children to begin treatment much sooner and greatly increases their chances of survival. As a result “the number of HIV-positive infants receiving treatment has more than doubled, from 40 per cent to more than 90 per cent in the last two years.”[1]



An article from the Center for International Health and Development at Boston University titled “Can the ubiquitous power of mobile phones be used to improve health outcomes in developing countries?”:


An article from aidsmap entitled “Mobile phone messages improve adherence and HIV control in Kenyan trial”:


An article from Smart Planet entitled “Bill Gates: mobile health technology will save lives, help overpopulation”:


A video from CNN titled “Cell phones save lives in Rwandan villages” :




1. Can you think of other types of aid that could be enhanced through the use of mobile devices?


2. Are there any concerns with the use of mobile devices for healthcare? What about patient privacy or the accuracy of information passed through a cell phone? How could these concerns be overcome?




[1] Nakkazi, Esther. "Mobile Technology Doubles HIV Treatment Rate in Babies." SciDev.Net. 1 Nov. 2010.