News about mobile phones and public health and safety

I have come across quite a few great applications of mobile phones and technology in the public health and safety that would be nice to share.

1) Promoting HIV awareness through soap opera vignettes

A campaign developed at Rutgers University’s School of Nursing has produced a series of soap opera vignettes that demonstrate safer sex and proper condom use. Researchers believe that mobile phones provide an ideal delivery system because they allow women privacy and multiple viewings. I think that the ease of propagating this campaign by word of mouth through forwarding will allow it to have a larger impact.

Hat tip: @DigiActive on Twitter and on the Web

2) Protecting public safety at NFL games

The NFL has started a new service that will allow fans to text information about public disputes and disturbances in games so that they can be dispelled before escalating. Allison Fine at the Social Citizens blog speculates about future uses in creating safer communities by allowing citizens to safely report dangerous activities. While safe whistleblowing may open channels of communication somewhat, I think there is still a great deal of work to be done in increasing trust in and respect of authority if this were applied in the community context.

Hat tip: @socialcitizen on Twitter

3) Promoting adherence to DOTS, treatment for tuberculosis

Companies have finally started to realize the need for actively promoting adherence to DOTS, or directly observed treatment, short course, the recommended treatment for tuberculosis. DOTS requires that a health care worker directly supervise a patient that the drugs to treat the tuberculosis. However, due to a number of factors including a health care worker shortage and insufficient funds, this is not possible in many developing countries. Companies are working to increase access to mobile phones so that patients may receive text reminders to take medication.

Read The Lancet for more information.

4) Monitoring child growth and nutritional status in Malawi

Columbia University and UNICEF are the winners of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Development 2.0 Challenge. Their project will establish a “RapidSMS” system that will allow health care workers to use basic mobile phones to share information about child growth and nutritional status in Malawi. This will be an interesting one to watch to see if they can scale it to other countries and other populations. The dearth of current statistical health information of many developing countries, particularly in Africa, makes measuring success difficult and distributing much needed resources properly impossible.


3 comments so far

  1. Jimmy Sorer on

    WOW! I know first hand what a massive worker shortage there is!
    I’ve a medical practice and needed 3 assistants for weeks. I’ve posted ads on MONSTER.COM, newspapers. Bulletin boards and NOTHING!
    Ooops! I forgot to tell you. I’m only paying a couple bucks above the minimum wage and the other doctors in my company are very difficult to work with. We also offer lousy few benefits!

    DO YOU GET MY POINT? There is no such thing as a skills or a worker shortage!
    Stop whining, raise your wages and improve your working conditions!

    If you pay enough and treat people well enough you’ll have applicants commuting from miles away, lining up around the block to work for you. Raise your wages and working conditions even more and you’ll attract people from other industries who will borrow money to self-finance their vocational training (witness the tech boom in the early and mid 1990’s.)

    You don’t need government blue ribbon committees to study the problem, You don’t need grants, you don’t need “temporary” worker visas, you need to open your eyes and observe! If your money and benefits do the talking, the applicants will come a-walking!

  2. Vanessa on

    @Jimmy I understand that you may have difficulties finding health care workers in the United States. I was referring to the global health care shortage, particularly in developing countries. The global health care shortage is driven by a variety of factors, including lack of a health care infrastructure and lack of adequate educational institutions among these reasons.

  3. Laura on

    I found this post through the blog on TakingITGlobal you have an RSS feed to – we are actually developing an issue of our online Magazine on Mobile Communications. If you would be interested in contributing a written piece on mobile phones from a health care perspective that would help add to the issue. (Our minimum word length for opinion pieces are 500, so it wouldn’t have to be essay length or anything.) You’ll be able to find out more about how to submit here in a week or so, or if you have questions e-mail Great post!

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