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Lessons learned from fellow IWG Grantees

Nearly a week after the 2013 mHealth Summit in National Harbor, Maryland, I’m still reflecting on the many discussions I had with fellow grantees about their projects. It was especially interesting to speak with all 3 rounds of IWG Grantees, who were brought from all corners of the world by the mHealth Alliance to discuss successes, challenges and lessons learned at the Summit.

By Mira Levenson, project officer for WAHA International

A seminar, titled “Scaling Up mHealth for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH): Lessons from the IWG Catalytic mHealth Grantees” highlighted projects by Round 3 grantees. As the “graduating class” of projects, these speakers had deep insight into the application of mobile health technology for MNCH.

To start off the seminar, the moderators, Madhu Deshmukh of the mHealth Alliance/UN Foundation and Garrett Mehl of the World Health Organization, outlined how IWG projects were chosen. These projects, selected by a panel through a competitive process, picks projects based on their ability to address Millenium Development Goals 4, 5 & 6, their maturity, their plans for scale-up, and their development of partnerships between governments and the private sector.

Syed Zaidi, of Interactive Research & Development (IRD), was the first to speak. He introduced IRD’s Interactive Alert system, which encourages on-time vaccination through SMS reminders about appointments and establishes a tracking system to manage patients in Pakistan. Zaidi cited that a key aspect of the project is its achievement of sustainability through social enterprise.

Next at the podium was Zachariah Jezman of VillageReach. Their project, Chipatala Cha Pa Foni, facilitates MNCH care seeking among rural women in Malawi. By creating a health hotline that offers health information, advice and referrals for pregnant women, guardians of young children and women of reproductive age, this system increases rural access to quality healthcare services. In their pilot study, researchers found that this method reduced unnecessary medical visits while also increasing necessary visits.

Next to speak was Anitha Moorthy of the Grameen Foundation. MOTECH, their extremely successful project in Ghana, has two pieces: a Mobile Midwife application that provides SMS information campaigns to pregnant women and their families, as well as the Nurse Application that helps rural nurses manage patients. A key strength of this project is working with a national steering committee from the very beginning of project development in order to ensure sustainability. That said, Moorthy cited the biggest challenge in achieving full sustainability as paying for airtime to support these applications. She then presented creative ways that MOTECH plans on financing their project in the long-term.

To close up the seminar, Marc Mitchell of D-Tree International took the stage. D-Tree’s eNUT project addresses malnutrition by streamlining information management and supporting decision-making among health workers. One challenge cited by Marc was that, due to the infrequency of malnutrition cases in clinics, the phones – along with the mobile app – remained locked in a clinic closet. He proposed that mHealth interventions should be better integrated into daily clinical practice to ensure that they can reach their full potential.

Overall, this was an excellent seminar that introduced us to a wide range of extremely successful mHealth projects. What an honor it is to join our fellow IWG Grantees! As we roll out our project, we will work with them to refine our project and achieve maximum success.