Project tests effectiveness of mobile phones to boost immunization rates

Child immunization efforts in Mozambique are getting a shot in the arm from mobile technology, according to a recent Inter Press Service article. Mozambique's Department of Health has teamed up with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI Alliance), a public-private partnership for immunization, to launch a pilot project in about 100 clinics in early 2013 where health workers will test the effectiveness and cost benefits of using mobile phones to communicate with patients.

An African nation the size of Turkey, Mozambique has a high child mortality rate in which 135 out of 1,000 children die before their fifth birthday. However, thanks to a $3 million, 12-month pilot project co-financed by British telecommunications giant Vodafone and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, organizers expect vaccination levels in Mozambique to improve by 5 to 10 percent.

As part of the pilot project, Mozambique's health workers will receive smartphones with software to access records, schedule appointments and help clinics in remote locations monitor stocks to make sure vaccines are available when mothers arrive with their children. Caregivers will be registered on a health ministry database and will be educated and alerted by text message about the availability of vaccines and their importance.

According to Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, a global industry body, Africa is the world's fastest-growing mobile phone market and the second largest after Asia. Although not every mother in the poor nation of Mozambique has a mobile phone, at least one family member or a neighbor usually does, according to the article.

A number of other African nations have started to use mobile technology in some areas of public healthcare, although the Mozambique pilot project will be the most comprehensive when it comes to immunization and will use software specifically developed for national conditions and needs. If Mozambique's pilot project is successful, it will be expanded to 1,500 clinics across the country.

A U.S.-based study published last year found text message reminders to parents about vaccinating their children against the flu to be more effective than traditional mail or phone notification methods. Researchers sent parents up to five weekly text messages reminding them about the need for vaccination and providing educational information.

To learn more:
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