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BETTER CARE FOR UNBORN BABIES IN TANZANIA DUE TO SMS
By Carlijn van Rossum, Text to Change.

and

HEALTH EDUCATION THROUGH E-LEARNING: A TOOL FOR SPEARHEADING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN UGANDA

By Dorothy Babirye, Health Child.

and

MOBILE PHONE TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE MATERNAL HEALTH

By Esther Nalugya, UNHCO.
For the past two years UNHCO has been using different electronic media to raise awareness on maternal health, health rights and responsibilities, solicit for feedback from communities and also following up of pregnant mothers to follow through their ANC visits to full term using SMS, radio, use of IEC materials say posters, TVs, DVDs and mobile phone technology. Through the mobile phone technology Pregnant mothers, men and women in reproductive ages are registered onto the SMS platform using different keyword, then they are able to access information and voice messages.  At some of the facilities where the project is being implemented there are TVs and DVDs that are used for health education and promotion using videos with community voices, testimonies, scenarios and experiences. On sharing such information, communities relate to it thus encouraging them to do the same or avoid those practices that risk the life of the mothers and their unborn babies. The SMS platform has so far registered 2000 beneficiaries and following up 100 mothers who keep dropping off as they deliver and join the Post Natal Care database.
Again as an organization we are using mobile technology to collect information on client satisfaction at different service points with Akvo flow technology. This has helped us to collect data firsthand with no use of paper based questionnaires yet with utmost accuracy.

Through experience we have realized that empowering communities with information improves services because it causes demand and increases utilization of health services. Empowerment also encourages communities to participate in the planning of health services and holding duty bearers accountable.However, through community engagement we have realized that in the rural setting mobile phone ownership is dominated by men rather than women. Therefore as we design intervention we should involve the men so that they can fully participate and support their women through information sharing to increase access to health services whenever needed. Men also play a big role in decision making at household level since they also own the resources. Therefore it’s imperative to have them involved in the whole process of health education.

 

There are also cases of phone illiteracy that usually makes it hard for individuals to retrieve and read sent messages or even to write and send messages. To this effect we have incorporated the idea of voice messages so that they can listen instead of reading. Support groups of Village Health Teams (VHTs) have also been formed to help the illiterate read and understand the messages.

In conclusion e- learning is a good innovation that we should keep investigating to support information sharing, data collection and dissemination. This should be done together with other interventions.

 

 

HEALTH EDUCATION THROUGH E-LEARNING: A TOOL FOR SPEARHEADING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN UGANDA

By Dorothy Babirye, Health Child
Health education is viewed in terms of environmental, physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual health. Different stakeholders uphold health in communities by putting into place interventions that prevent and address health problems. Health Child, a registered NGO operating in the Eastern and Northern districts, promotes sanitation, water and hygiene aspects in Jinja. This was implemented in its areas of operation (Kisma 1 and Kisma 2 islands) in which it sensitized community members on promotion of hygiene in the community through the use of the community radio.


A community radio uses simple technology comprising of a transmitter and loud speakers that are hoisted on tall buildings or wooden poles.  Coverage extends as far as the capacity of loudspeakers. Community radios are vehicles through which government, civil societies, voluntary organizations etc can pass on messages beneficial to community.
When communities acquired information, the mortality rate reduced due to people’s adoption of good behavioral practices that enabled them fight diseases. Maternal health was promoted through sensitization of pregnant and postnatal mothers and  less cases were reported of children who were previously  affected by malnutrition and diseases.
With improved hygiene and therefore better health,  community members are now able to run their activities such as fishing, petty trade, farming and boat building. Per capita income has  increased  and so has the standard of living.
Health Child supports this intervention and it is registering huge successes. This will pave way for the initiation of policies on health geared at promoting economic development.

 

BETTER CARE FOR UNBORN BABIES IN TANZANIA DUE TO SMS
Submitted by Carlijn van Rossum, Text to Change


DAR ES SALAAM - According to African tradition the birth of a child shouldn’t be carefully prepared. “In that case we believe that your baby will be stillborn” says Mary a 42 year old teacher. However, Mary has thrown all traditions and superstition overboard during her sixth pregnancy when she was convinced by her doctor that the right information would truly benefit her and her baby. Mary registered herself for the SMS-service of mHealth. “Because of this service I realized I had to go to the clinic when I had severe abdominal pains in the first three months of my pregnancy.”

Mary is one of the 300.000 Tanzanian women who are registered for the Healthy pregnancy and Healthy Baby Text Messaging Service program of the mHealth Tanzania Partnership. This program was implemented by Text to Change, a social enterprise set up by Bas Hoefman and Hajo van Beijma, six years ago. According to them this program – ‘the biggest interactive SMS campaign ever’ – provides pregnant women and young mothers with essential information about pregnancy and new born babies. “Already more than 25 million free text messages have been sent”, says Janita Ferentinos, director of the mHealth Tanzania Partnership. Men also subscribe to the service. They are often more literate and have more access to a mobile phone than women. “They also like to be informed about their wife’s pregnancy.”


This SMS-program is very necessary in a country where one out of 38 women is at risk of dying during her pregnancy or giving birth, also in which 48.000 new-born babies die each year. That’s why lately the Ministry of Health has made several plans to improve healthcare for pregnant women.

“Expecting mothers who visit my clinic, are immediately registered for the SMS-service” says Anna Temba, a doctor in Dodoma. “We note in which week of their pregnancy they are in and they then receive three or four text messages weekly with relevant information that relates to the phase of their pregnancy. For example they receive a reminder when it’s time to visit the clinic again and to take malaria pills.”
29-year old Christina Qadwe a bank clerk in Dodoma, says that her second pregnancy developed much better because of the text messages. “I wasn’t aware of a lot of things; I didn’t know how important it was to visit the clinic regularly. Now I know that I have to see a doctor when I have a severe headache or a fever. I used to take an aspirin, with all the attendant risks.”
Due to text messages, teacher Mary, who already has five children, now realizes that there are many methods available for family planning as well.

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