Mobile health coverage is expanding in Mozambique. Following a successful pilot in a few districts of Inhambane province, the Ministry of Health, in partnership with Malaria Consortium and UNICEF, will scale up an innovative mobile health (mHealth) app-based system to all districts of Inhambane and to the northern province of Cabo Delgado, as part of our new upSCALE project.
In recent years, mobile Health, or mHealth, has emerged as an important innovation with tremendous potential to strengthen health systems in low- and middle-income settings. It achieves this by providing better access to knowledge and information by improving service delivery and reducing response time to crises. Mobile phone coverage is growing rapidly across the world, both in terms of network coverage and the number of users.
upSCALE aims to expand an mHealth system using an interactive mobile android application. The app provides step-by-step guidance to community health workers, or agentes polivalentes elementares (APEs), in running procedures for diagnosing and treating common diseases that are addressed at community level by trained workers. In September 2016, 258 community health workers were trained on this mHealth system.
Salvador was the oldest among the trainees, demonstrating that age is not a limitation for successfully using modern mobile technology.
“My name is Salvador Waciquetane. I am 56 years old and I have been doing community health work for many years in Inhambane’s Vilankulo district, community of Chelene. I started to volunteer as a health activist in 2006 and, at the time, I was giving health talks in my community about good health practices. In 2010, I was the one chosen by my community to participate in the training to become an APE, as part of the Ministry of Health revitalisation programme. From the training until today, the people of my community are counting on me to provide basic health care.
Each year, I participate in various refresher trainings; in September, I received a call from my supervisor, Valério, requesting me to come to the district headquarters to participate in a CommCare training, which involves using a mobile phone in my work as an APE. After the phone call, I was curious and I began to imagine that the cell phone would be the same as the ones I saw during the general population census, when I had to map the population of my community. But when the training started, I was very impressed. I saw that the phone is equipped to help me do much more than I had imagined: family planning activities, follow-ups of pregnant women, diagnosing and treating diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia, as well as tracking people with tuberculosis and HIV to refer them to the health centre. I am very happy because this phone is going to help me a lot in my work, as it is easy and it guides the APE well.
“When I return I will meet with my community leader to ask him to arrange a meeting so I can present my new device to the community members. I think they will react very well and this will increase the trust they have. Any novelty is a challenge at first, but as time goes by I will find my way and I will grow to understand it.”
By Éder Ismael Zerefos