As I walk with Community Health Workers in the Millennium Villages throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, I notice the long distances, endless demand for services and the individual hardship they endure to reach every member of the community. In the past few years, the nature of their work has profoundly changed as cell-phones become a nearly ubiquitous feature of rural life, even in the poorest places. Not only can CHWs get support during emergencies, but they can get real-time feedback on routine tasks to ensure that quality remains high.
With mobile networks and electronic medical record systems providing cost effective solutions for information awareness, rural isolation is quickly being enriched with constant communication. The Earth Institute team has worked closely with the Millennium Villages, corporate partners and governments to ensure that some of the lowest-resource areas of Africa can leapfrog development hurdles with well-adapted and implemented technologies. Mobile phones are augmenting and extending the health system in ways that we’ve only just begun to appreciate.
Patricia Mechael, Director of mHealth at CGHED, and I were able to discuss what we’ve learned in the field at the Seminar on New Media and Learning at Columbia University. A transcipt and audio recording of the discussion may be found here.
Prabhjot Dhadialla is the Community Health Worker Program Advisor at the Center for Global Health and Economic Development.
The Center for Global Health and Economic Development (CGHED) mobilizes health research and programs that enable low-resource countries to develop quality health systems for the poor, promote sustainable economic development and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – global targets for reducing extreme poverty and hunger and improving education, health, gender equality and environmental sustainability. For more information about CGHED’s work, please visit our website.