Maternal Health Plus: Reducing maternal mortality in Nigeria through cell phones

Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Many Nigerian women lack access to basic health information, prenatal care and professional assistance during childbirth. A majority, however, have access to mobile phones.

The second initiative we’ve been supporting is a pilot research study in Osun State, Nigeria focused on determining whether a text messaging campaign linking pregnant women with health information and community health extension workers improves access to prenatal care and health outcomes. This initiative is the brainchild of Oluwatosin Omole, a Nigerian physician determined to reduce maternal mortality in his country. He believes that improved access to health information via text messaging, including reminders to seek prenatal care, will encourage women to attend prenatal care, and improve their overall chances of a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

In collaboration with researchers from Obafemi Awolowo University, pregnant women from two primary care centres in Osun State will be recruited to participate. Of those who accept to participate, half will be randomized to receive free, weekly text messages providing health information appropriate for their stage of pregnancy and reminders to attend prenatal clinics. Participants will also be able to submit questions about their health free-of-charge via text messaging to community health extension workers supported by healthcare professionals.

We feel pilot studies such as this are important in determining whether maternal health promotion campaigns using text messages are an effective tool in tackling the burden of maternal mortality and improving access to information and prenatal care. This pilot study should add further information to the growing body of evidence…

Update on the first initiative we’re supporting: mHealth for maternal and newborn health in Western Kenya


Interface for Community Health Workers

Community health workers in Western Kenya have been very busy helping pregnant women and children improve their access to health information and healthcare since our last post on this initiative of Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya, and the University of Toronto. 

Through this initiative, the work of community health workers has been supported by smartphones equipped with open source software: electronic health records, accessible health information and clinical decision support tools. So far, ninety community health workers have been trained to use these smartphones and dispatched into communities with them.

The smartphones contain electronic health records that allow for patient tracking and recording of health information. The smartphones have been equipped with specially designed clinical decision support tools that help community health workers provide tailored health information to the women and children they visit. For example, using tools on the smartphone, a community health worker is able to determine when a pregnant women is due and prompted to provide appropriate prenatal health information for her stage of pregnancy. The smartphones have also been loaded with video clips that provide maternal and child health information in local languages.

In the next few months, the pilot phase of this project will be wrapping up and the initiative will undergo an evaluation. Next phase: scaling up and/or replication?