Text messaging keeps Tanzanian clinics stocked with anti-malarials

We love stories like this: applications of a basic, low-cost mobile technology to address a serious health crisis in a region terribly short on resources. In this case, the technology is text messaging, the health crisis is malaria and the resource-poor area is the African nation of Tanzania.

IBM, Vodafone and pharmaceutical manufacturer Novartis are teaming up with a group called the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to implement SMS For Life, a program to track and manage distribution of anti-malarials, including artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) drugs and Quinine injectables. During a five-month pilot of SMS For Life in 135 Tanzanian villages, health workers received weekly text reminders to check medication stocks, and then replied on toll-free numbers to a database in the UK that could arrange deliveries to assure a constant supply. Within a few weeks, the number of clinics completely running out of medications fell by 75 percent, IT Pro reports.

Based on the results of the pilot, Tanzanian authorities currently are considering a nationwide expansion of the program. "The SMS for Life program has already had a positive effect in Tanzania,"Winfred Mwafongo, senior health officer for Tanzania's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, said, according to IT Pro. "I've seen district medical officers ordering urgent stock replacements for various health facilities."

To learn more about SMS For Life:
- take a look at this IT Pro story