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K4Health News

March 2013
Volume 1
Issue 2

Focus on mHealth

The K4Health Newsletter Special Supplement: mHealth provides updates on mobile health activities, issues, and achievements in international development and is published every other month by K4Health.

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In This Issue

WHO mHealth Technical Advisory Group for Evidence in Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health

The mHealth Technical Advisory Group (mTAG) represents a World Health Organization (WHO)-convened group of recognized global experts at the intersection of mHealth and reproductive, maternal, 

newborn and child health. Through transparent discussions, research review, and systematic evaluation, mTAG works to establish methodologies and build consensus recommendations to identify mHealth strategies for which there is substantial evidence of health system value. mTAG is comprised of 18 global representatives, four donor agencies and seven WHO technical domain experts representing ministries of health, academic and research institutions, implementing organizations, and professional associations. WHO’s Reproductive Health and Research department serves as secretariat for mTAG.
mHealth has emerged as an important innovation with tremendous potential to strengthen health systems through improved access to knowledge and information, improved service delivery, and reduced response time to crises. The potential of mHealth strategies to address shortfalls in health systems is driving demand and heightening expectations. Governments and donors have recognized this potential and are beginning to invest considerable resources in mHealth, even in the absence of high quality evidence and information regarding the optimal implementation and integration of specific strategies.
Decision-makers in low- and middle-income countries are also faced with an increasingly confusing diversity of mHealth tools and systems and a lack of guidance on how to select appropriate components from these choices based on their problem or needs. Furthermore, guidance on the appropriate ‘systems approach’ to integrating these novel strategies into existing health systems is lacking. There is considerable demand for evidence-based guidance on which mHealth solutions should be adopted to strengthen specific health system needs across the continuum of care, particularly in relation to the Millennium Development Goals and the United Nations Secretary General’s Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.
mTag will foster and facilitate improved evidence generation and knowledge synthesis for the development of guidance and best practices related to the use of mHealth innovations for health systems strengthening, aimed at decision-makers and implementers.

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International Telecommunication Union at the Global Education & Technology Health Summit

International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré delivered the opening keynote address at the Global Education and Technology Summit (GETHealth) in New York on February 6th, 2013. ITU is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technology.
Dr. Touré discussed the transition of information and communication technologies from luxury to basic necessity; highlighted new technologies, including a malaria diagnosis app; and detailed the need for educators and trainers. Read Dr. Touré’s full remarks.
Find out more ideas from the GETHealth summit about how information and communication technology can help close the health workforce gap.

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News from the mHealth Working Group

mHealth Working Group Discussion: Cell Phone Coverage in Africa
When Adam Slote of USAID’s Bureau for Global Health/Office of Health Systems wanted a map of cell phone coverage in Africa, he turned to the mHealth Working Group. Members responded with several links, including an interactive resource from Dr. Craig Friderichs, Director of Health at the GSM Association. Use the tool to search by country, mobile operator, and region for the percentage of a country surface covered by a mobile networks using GSM technology from 2007-2009.
Join the discussion! Send an e-mail to or contribute to the mHealth Working Group community of practice on the Implementing Best Practices Knowledge Gateway.
Sharing Resources and Challenges in the mHealth Working Group Online Discussion Forum
The mHealth Working Group kicked off 2013 with an online discussion forum on mHealth implementation opportunities, issues and challenges. The active, five-day discussion centered on themes of the draft brief “mHealth: Emerging High-Impact Practices for Family Planning.” Community members shared their experiences with mHealth projects and traded tips and links to helpful tools and resources. One popular topic was open source tools and software for mHealth, which projects turn to for mobile data collection, sending text messages, and other services. Throughout the discussion, forum participants kept the focus on the end users of mHealth services, such as community health workers, pregnant women, midwives, youth, and physicians. Check out a few of the resources shared in the 52 contributions to the forum by 37 participants representing more than 12 countries and 22 organizations:

The next mHealth Working Group discussion forum will take place March 18-22, 2013. Watch for more details about how to participate.

2012 mHealth Summit: mHealth Implementation Opportunities, Issues, and Challenges
In December 2012, nearly 4,000 delegates from 56 countries came together for the 4th annual mHealth Summit to share approaches and discuss how to advance the field of mHealth to improve health outcomes. For the global health community, this particular summit was a milestone because for the first time a global health track was included in the program. In addition to sharing progress and challenges and charting the course in mHealth for global health programs, the global health track helped facilitate partnerships between the diverse number of players including those in academia, donors, developers, and program implementers.

The mHealth Working Group hosted a session focused on opportunities and challenges for mHealth implementation and scale-up issues in the global health arena. The event leveraged the expertise of over 60 members of the mHealth Working Group and the broader mHealth community to help move forward the existing dialogue on these topics. The group identified the top five areas that would help them with their mHealth-related work : 1) Sharing results of what worked and what didn’t with regard to using mHealth content in the field; 2) How to design an mHealth intervention so that it answers the question, “Does this mHealth intervention add value to this program?”; 3) Logic models or theories of change for measurement and evaluation of mHealth interventions; 4)  The top ten most common issues that come up in the early stages of mHealth program implementation and tips for dealing with them; and 5) Some examples of successfully scaled  up and sustainable mHealth public-private partnerships.  
Kelly L’Engle, FHI 360, presented the outline of the mHealth Implementation Guide in production by the FHI 360/PROGRESS project and K4Health. Participants then broke into groups for facilitated discussions on planning and design, technological considerations, scale-up, sustainability, and evaluation. Each group reported their key takeaways, including challenges, promising practices, approaches, gaps in tools and resources, and recommendations for future discussion. Participants also received a copy of the draft brief “mHealth: Emerging High-Impact Practices for Family Planning.”

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The Knowledge for Health Project (K4Health) is implemented by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Communication Programs, in partnership with FHI 360 and Management Sciences for Health. The views reflected in this newsletter and on K4Health's blog are those of the individual contributors; are not official U.S. Government information; and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Government, The Johns Hopkins University, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, or the Center for Communication Programs.

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