GSMA aims to bring mHealth services to African women, children

The Groupe Speciale Mobile Association's Mobile (GSMA) for Development mHealth program has launched a cross-ecosystem partnership to offer mHealth services with a focus on nutrition to 15.5 million pregnant women, mothers and children under the age of 5 in Sub-Saharan Africa.

GMSA's initial launch partners include Samsung, Hello Doctor, Lifesaver, Gemalto, Mobenzi, Mobilium and MTN and Omega Diagnostics. The partners will launch services in September in seven countries: Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia. The program's second phase, which will start in 2015 with additional partners, will provide services in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

"This new mobile ecosystem partnership, developed by the GSMA, is committed to connecting the mobile and health industries to develop commercially sustainable mHealth services that meet public health needs," Tom Phillips, chief regulatory officer at the GSMA, said in an announcement.

Such initiatives are helping healthcare efforts, specifically services for pregnant mothers and newborns, according to a recent research viewpoint published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors, Smisha Agarwal and Alain Labrique, Ph.D, both of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that mHealth programs boast the potential to improve the fate of 7.6 million children under the age of 5 who die each year around the world.

Other similar programs, as FierceMobileHealthcare recently reported, include one developed by University of British Columbia researchers that aims to provide pregnant women living in rural locations with needed prenatal care through text messaging. In addition, a year-long evaluation publicized last May of the text4baby, a free mobile information service promoting maternal and child health through text messaging, found the program to be effective.

The GSMA program's goal is to make connectivity, cellphones, smartphones and tablets available to women and healthcare workers. It will also feature a smart health app on 80 million Samsung handsets, and aims to make diagnostic services more affordable and accessible. The association hopes to provide health content, patient registration, data collection and critical diagnostics across Africa in a commercially sustainable and scalable approach.

"This partnership heralds a new era in the delivery of healthcare in Sub-Saharan Africa, where currently access to even the most basic of health services remains the worst in the world," MTN Group Chief Commercial Officer Pieter Verkade said in the announcement.

For more information:
- read the announcement
- learn more about GSMA's mHealth program