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BMJ spoke to Vishal Diwan about his study that used mobile based reporting to determine the number of childbirth events in rural Madhya Pradesh, India.

How can mobile technology improve health in low- and middle-income countries.

The explosive growth of mobile technology over the past decade has generated exciting new thinking around the potential of so-called "mhealth" to improve health, with evidence beginning to emerge from high-income countries. However, the evidence base from low- and middle-income countries is weak.


To further examine this debate, BMJ partnered with the University College London Institute for Global Health and Umeå Centre for Global Health Research, Sweden. Together we hosted MHealth, a two-day symposium to explore current thinking around evidence within the fields of health systems and health education, with a focus on tangible health outcomes. This multidisciplinary event was the first of its kind in the UK. Speakers from all over the world attended to assess the evidence base for mHealth in the world’s poorest settings. BMJ sponsored two delegates: Sabina Rasheed from Bangladesh and Associate Professor from the R.D Gardi Medical College, Ujjain, India, Vishal Diwan (below).


Vishal spoke to us about his study that used mobile based reporting to determine the number of childbirth events rural Madhya Pradesh, India: 

"My team and I at R.D Gardi Medical College carried out a year-long research project that focused on how the use of mobile can benefit reporting on childbirth within the province. The research covered the population of 1.9 million in the entire district of Ujjain in India." He continued:  "Through the use of mobile, we were able to collect information from 1,800 village works or community members from 152 villages. We relied on them to report their own information, but  the use of mobile technology meant that our researchers were able to follow up and verify this information the next day."

Vishal employed a call centre and invited community members to call in to report new childbirth event. This had a 68% response rate, and also revealed that 20,000 prescriptions were taken over 6 months from 9 districts. Vishal added: "There are over 500 unqualified medical providers working in the province. The mobile technology meant we were able to contact the majority of these practitioners to make use of their reporting on childbirths in the province." Vishal is of the opinion that using mobile technology to conduct research in low- or middle-income countries is highly beneficial and will continue to use this form of reporting.

Relevant articles from BMJ:
Mobile phone text messaging for improving the uptake of vaccinations: a systematic review protocol -- Kalan et al. 4 (8) -- BMJ Open

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