Eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were agreed upon by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in 2000, which aimed at reducing world poverty, increasing the rate of development and improving global health. Goal 4 was set up to reduce child mortality and Goal 5 was set up to improve maternal health. According to WHO, achieving Goal 4 on reducing child mortality requires universal coverage with key effective, affordable interventions including: care for newborns and their mothers; infant and young child feeding; vaccines; prevention and case management of pneumonia, diarrhea and sepsis; malaria control; and prevention and care of HIV/AIDS. Referring to World Health Organization (WHO) data, 6.6 million children under-five died in 2012, and 287 000 women died due to pregnancy or childbirth-related complications in 2010.
In the area of improving global health, significant efforts have been made to mobilize ICTs and e-services to prevent deaths worldwide. Introduction of automated systems for patients such as SMS reminders about an appointment, an examination or a vaccination can greatly improve quality and efficiency of medical care. Several examples illustrate the various uses for mobile health including: reducing child mortality and protecting mothers project in Oman; Mobile Phones for Integrated Health and Early Childhood Care and Development in Kenya; and Text4baby in the USA. Through the sharing of data between hospitals, women have the option to choose the hospital where to give birth without depending on the hospital of their residence. For example, the Rwanda Health Enterprise Architecture, launched in 2009, aims to improve the health care system in Rwanda through the sharing and interoperability of profiles across multiple health care facilities. Also, the government of Uruguay has introduced the Electronic Born-Alive Certificate with a unique identification number right after children are born that generates a vital statistics unified database that provides revolutionary change in the data treatment/storage.
With the latest e-services, in some countries women can access the information pre-natal to post-natal phase when they are able to view and add information to the child’s eHealth record, for example, the My Child’s eHealth Record mobile app in Australia.
Another issue eHealth services must overcome is the prevalence of illiteracy among women in developing countries. The risk of a woman in a developing country dying from a pregnancy-related cause during her lifetime is about 25 times higher compared to a woman living in a developed country. That’s why programmes to raise awareness about health are relying on new technologies to bring health services to illiterate populations. Voice calls are excellent tools to reach illiterate women in rural communities. The “MOTHER” in India is a mobile-based voice health alert tool to reach rural women without basic literacy.
Improving the health of women and children is a global health imperative, reflected in two of the most compelling Millennium Development Goals which seek specifically to reduce maternal and infant deaths by 2015. The WHO and ITU have jointly published, based on a 64-country survey, the report “eHealth and innovation in women’s and children’s health: A baseline review” that demonstrates the vital role that information and communication technologies (ICTs) and particularly eHealth are playing today in helping achieve those targets. It demonstrates how, every day, eHealth is saving the lives of women, their babies and infants in the some of the most vulnerable populations around the world, in a wide variety of innovative ways.
ITU and WHO have also launched BE HE@LTHY, BE MOBILE, a global initiative for the prevention and treatment of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs). This partnership aims to contribute to global and national efforts to save lives, minimize illness and disability, and reduce the social and economic burden due to NCDs through the use of mobile technologies. The online repository of eHealth projects represents another joint effort between the WHO and ITU to collect and make available information on validated, operational eHealth projects that demonstrate the effective and sustainable use of ICT for health. The initial focus is on, but not limited to, eHealth projects related to women’s and children’s health to support the United Nations Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health. Interested parties are invited to submit successful eHealth projects that have been evaluated and are supported by governments. Supporting the development of this resource will make a wealth of information available on eHealth projects and enable mutual learning through the sharing of experiences and good practices. Submissions will be made available online, once validated, through WHO and ITU websites, to a global audience.
You’re kindly invited to submit information about eHealth projects and programmes at: www.who.int/ehealth/resources/repository/en/
More information about case studies on eHealth, in the upcoming WSIS Stocktaking Report 2014 to be released at WSIS+10 High Level Event in June 2014.
Mr. Hani Eskandar is the ICT Applications Coordinator at the ICT Applications and Cybersecurity Division of the Telecommunication Development Bureau of ITU. Mr. Eskandar is currently involved in providing assistance to several developing countries by advising on eApplications strategies and policies, assisting in implementing technical co-operation projects and developing guidelines and best-practices on eApplications.
Ms. Regina Valiullina is a Policy Analyst working on the World Summit on the Information Society at ITU. She coordinates regular Success Stories and WSIS Stocktaking reporting that highlights case studies from all over the world. She is involved in maintaining Web 2.0 platform and repository of best practices that gives a chance to the global community to share information and lessons learnt. She also works on the following projects: WSIS Forum, WSIS+10 High-Level Event and WSIS Project Prizes. She holds BA in International Relations and MBA.