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Mobile health- the answer to Africa's health issues?


23/10/2014

In the lead up to the 3rd annual Mobile Health Africa congress we take a look at the prospective benefits and problems faced when using mobile phones as a way of treating, diagnosing and educating populations.

The world now has 5 billion mobile phones – one for every person over 15. Africa has a billion people and 750 million phones, and mobile is growing so fast there that in a few years there will be more phones than people.

With several Africans living in rural areas, for many, accessing medical facilities can be difficult. mHealth is one aspect of eHealth that is pushing the limits of how to acquire, transport, store, process, and secure the raw and processed data to deliver meaningful results.

The mHealth field operates on the premise that technology integration within the health sector has the great potential to promote a better health communication to achieve healthy lifestyles, improve decision-making by health professionals (and patients) and enhance healthcare quality by improving access to medical and health information and facilitating instantaneous communication in places where this was not previously possible.

One famous example of effective usage of mhealth for monitoring and response to diseases is the use of mobile applications in Nigeria for the Ebola response.

Although m Health could be mistaken as a solution for all diseases, it is important to consider the potential difficulties when trying to implement a mhealth programme. Issues raised such as breaching patient privacy, improper use of mobile devices and consideration of costs related to the purchase of equipment.