Mobile Phones For Maternal Health

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How can we use cell phones for social change? With Ushahidi, we can help regnant and laboring women around the world.
As mobile and web technologies become increasingly accessible to those living in remote poverty around the world, the potential to expand access to health care to underserved populations becomes ever more real.

It’s exciting to see the many ways that innovative people and organizations are able to take advantage of the spread of technology to make positive social change. Ushahidi, an open-source platform that can be used by anyone to collect and visualize user-generated information, is an excellent example. They’re using mobile and web technology – including social media platforms like Twitter – to capture critical up-to-date reports from individuals in crisis areas through crowd-sourcing and filtering.

Ushahidi creates a hub for user-generated crisis information that comes in through text messages, tweets, and emails around a given crisis in a specific geographic area. Their team then uses the “Swift River” filtering system to determine which reports are legitimate and group them thematically. The reports are placed on an interactive map so that users can see exactly where emergencies are being reported. Right now, for example, this tool is making a difference in Haiti by helping aid workers and first responders identify where and for what the needs are greatest.

What if this tool was used for women going through labor or labor-related complications?

There are already some open-source map-based initiatives being built for the maternal health field. The Maternal Health Task Force has designed three interactive, user-generated maps that depict maternal health knowledge hubs, MPH programs offering a maternal health concentration, and organizations working in maternal health. Another key contributor is Maternova, one of the Changemakers early entry prize winners for the Healthy Mothers, Strong World competition, which is building an open-source map of maternal health care facilities around the world.

By combining these maps, which outline the maternal health “supply” worldwide, with information and interactive maps that visually depict demand, perhaps we could create a clearer, more visual picture of the true gaps in health access.

Pregnant women in need of care – or their friends and family – could text an emergency alert to a number assigned by Ushahidi. This would then be transmitted to health professionals in the region, and made widely available on the internet. Though ensuring an immediate response to the requests will take time and a larger overarching strategy, the reporting of this information alone can help direct health care facilitators to the areas most in need.

Let me know what you think about the potential to use mobile and web technologies to crowd source information for maternal health by responding to this post.

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