By Tanzoom Ahmed (Communications and Fundraising Manager, Armman)
I was born in a family of doctors ( my father and paternal grandfather are both physicians) and brought up in the small town of Jorhat in Assam. Volunteering for medical camps with my father and listening to his anecdotes of travel to the flood affected interior parts of Assam were few strong learning experiences of my childhood. Since a tender age, I witnessed the challenges of the healthcare system in rural India, but due to my limitations in academic knowledge and my young age, I could not think of an effective solutions to tackle the problems. Fortunately, I had many opportunities to travel the world and finally got to study Global Policy from the United States. One of the most crucial subjects to understand within the domains of Global Policy is Global Health. My education gave me a much better idea of the world of healthcare. I was finally able to etch the problems of Indian rural healthcare system and compare it to the global scenario. My familiarity with the subject, and my academic experience helped me recognize that- access to healthcare and health-related information was the major challenges for the Indian rural population. In order to solve most of the ongoing problems, there had to be a way to put health information on the finger tips of every person living in the developing world, fortunately, in the current world of medicine there was a panacea already brewing ; and its called mHealth.
mHealth or Mobile Health is a recent groundbreaking practice in the field of healthcare. The term refers to the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices. World Health Organization (WHO) has categorized mHealth under fourteen distinct categories : health call centers, emergency-toll-free telephone services, managing emergencies and disasters, mobile telemedicine, appointment reminders, community mobilization and health promotion, treatment compliance, mobile patient records, information access, patient monitoring, health surveys and data collection, surveillance, health awareness raising, and decision support systems.
The effectiveness of mHealth is increasing with the widespread use of mobile devices, currently there are approximately 6.8 billion mobile phone users across the world. India alone accounts for 940 million mobile devices, and around 36 percent of the users belong to the the rural population. A recent study estimates that by the year 2016 mobile phones will outnumber the world population! Hence, the web of mobile devices is the most efficient network to send and receive healthcare related information and to provide easy access to health services and health providers.
My education, research and exposure on mHealth all came together as I got the unique opportunity to work with Armman, now is the time for me to experience the impact of mHealth at a first-hand professional level. mMitra voice and animation service by Armman is a free mobile voice and animated film service in rural India on preventive care and simple interventions to reduce perinatal mortality and morbidity, very soon this service will reach 1162 women in the rural parts of Maharashtra.
Being a part of this initiative is a huge opportunity for me in getting to understand the concept of mobile-health very closely. Another initiative of Armman called Project Hero (Helpline for Emergency Response Operations) will provide real-time information on the availability of ICU beds and blood of the required type; through a Helpline, Website, SMS and Mobile App during personal and mass emergencies. Currently, there is no system in India that provides real time information about availability of emergency medical resources. Both theses initiatives entail the practice of mHealth in a big way and I hope to see this become a widespread practice in India soon!