Africa is not dealing with a shortage of mhealth solutions. Instead, the issue is getting targeted users to know about the available solutions and how they work.
In Botswana, the Botswana Innovation Hub and partners—including Orange Botswana, University of Botswana, UNICEF, Botswana-UPenn Partnership, CADLINE, Southern African Innovation Support Programme, PEPFAR, and the Ministry of Health—recently organized the country’s 2015 mHealth Innovation Competition to identify and recognize the country’s largest and most notable mhealth projects. The intent was also to bring to the fore innovative solutions that deserve public attention.
Similar initiatives are underway across Africa with thousands of mhealth-related initiatives and products seeking to get noticed and accepted. While the developers are all optimistic about the viability of their products, not many targeted users of such mhealth solutions are aware of their existence nor understand how they work.
The existence of a wide awareness gap between mhealth solutions and targeted users—health professionals and/or patients—is viewed as an important factor that limits the acceptance of mhealth innovations. This is also part of the reason that the potential positive impact of mhealth solutions is not being achieved.
The Accenture Foundation Initiative
Aware of these shortcomings, the Accenture Foundation recently announced it has awarded a grant of US$3 million to Amref Health Africa. The funding will help the organization to enhance and scale its mobile health training program to 3,000 community health workers in Kenya.
This initiative attests to the fact that many members of African society are not in the mhealth ecosystem and are not enlightened and informed about mhealth, digital health and other potential avenues to usefully deploy technology in Africa’s healthcare system.
According to Accenture's press release:
"The grant is a part of Accenture’s corporate citizenship initiative, Skills to Succeed, which is equipping more than 700,000 people around the world with the skills to get a job or build a business. The M-PESA Foundation has also provided an additional US$1.5 million in funding.
Community health workers play a critical role in providing healthcare services to communities, but they lack the training and support to deliver them effectively. This is why Accenture’s two-year grant will enable Amref Health Africa to expand its Health Enablement and Learning Platform (HELP)—which provides community health workers with flexible, mobile access to skills training and support tools. It has the potential to improve healthcare services for hundreds of thousands of people across Africa.
HELP is a mobile health learning platform developed and launched in 2013 in partnership with Vodacom-Mezzanine’s Helium platform, and Safaricom—a Vodafone affiliate in Kenya. HELP builds on Vodafone’s mhealth portfolio which, developed with its network of global partnerships, increases access to healthcare services through its customer reach and scalable mobile health solutions. Vodafone and Safaricom will continue to provide scalability and mobile solution expertise with technology partner Mezzanine."
“Through this collaborative partnership, we are levering technology and delivering measurable solutions that will make a profound impact across sub-Saharan Africa,” said Jill Huntley, managing director, Global Corporate Citizenship, Accenture. “By harnessing the power of mobile, Amref Health Africa is delivering job and medical skills training at speed and scale – a critical component in improving the health as well as the long-term economic sustainability of communities in Africa.”
“African countries are facing a severe shortage of healthcare workers who are able to provide support for communities in need. Providing in-depth, high-quality skills training via mobile devices will help develop the capacity and confidence of community health workers,” said Dr. Lennie Bazira Igbodipe-Kyomuhangi, interim CEO, Amref Health Africa. “By working together to scale HELP, we will support more community health workers with ongoing training, supervision and defined career paths that, in turn, benefit the health of their communities.”
“Through this cross-sector partnership, we will further increase the number of healthcare workers to deliver the health services needed to support their communities,” said Les Baillie, M-PESA Foundation executive director. “We’re actively building the foundation for a long-term, scalable and sustainable solution that will improve the lives of many people in Kenya, and ultimately, across Africa.”
This case study shows strategies that could be deployed to engage health workers. For other categories of users, educational initiatives could be designed to target them on an individual basis or as a group.
Dare Ogunbiyi, an app developer, believes this is one of the missing links in the last mile to the full deployment of mhealth in Africa.
“If we can effectively educate those that will use the solutions we are developing, we could record phenomenal achievements and make the much desired progress in our quest to revolutionize healthcare in Africa thorugh mhealth,” he told nuviun.
The nuviun industry network is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.