- The uncomfortable reality is that we live in a world where there is a Silent emergency every day: 15,000 children will die from preventable causes today. 1,000 women will die from pregnancy-related causes today. This year, 4 million newborns worldwide will die in the first month of life.
The silent killers that will take away their lives are poverty, hunger, easily preventable diseases and illnesses, and related causes. Almost 90% of all child deaths are attributable to just six conditions: neonatal causes, pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles, and HIV/AIDS.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of excellent projects, aimed at these killers, are being implemented in both rural and urban parts of the world. Some serve a village, while others serve a group of villages, a town, a city, a taluka, a block or a district. Yet few projects are implemented state-wide and even fewer nationwide. Why is that? A key factor is capacity-building and scaling-up.
Health education has to be one of the most effective ways to reduce maternal and child mortality, those preventable deaths that we never seem to manage to prevent. We need to deliver vital messages and information for mothers, fathers, siblings, caregivers and communities to use in changing behaviour and practices: messages that can save and protect the lives of children and help them grow and develop to their full potential.
For the illiterate, currently their only source of information is probably going to be the people around them, who are also, in many cases, illiterate. Their level of dependency and lack of self-reliance, their dis-empowerment and exclusion, is at a level that many of us will find hard to imagine.
With the continuous rapid growth in population and shrinking budgets, governments are finding it increasingly difficult, and expensive, to effectively manage programmes and efforts that involve training and educating their large numbers of departments and staff. This is leaving health workers, and by extension, families and communities ignorant of the basic knowledge that could help prevent diseases and improve the quality of health of their families and communities. The more that resources can be freed up to facilitate the flow of knowledge directly the better.
The First Mile Now Reachable
The mobile phone has made connection possible in ways that were truly unthinkable until very recently. And it has stoked the desire of people to be connected. Take India for example: with a population of 1.17 billion and a wireless user base of about 700 million (Oct. 2010), and growing at the rate of 15 to 20 million a month. "Cell Phone penetration will reach 97% by 2014", according to a recent study. Soon, almost everybody will have one.
This is a game-changer for capacity-building and scaling up. It means we can reach the excluded, the illiterate, all those women, men and children who were only visible in tragic statistics. We can reach families and communities as a whole - something we've never really been able to do before.
Empowering, Teaching, Reaching and Changing Behaviours
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million.
While many successful projects have been developed to use mobile phones in various settings to transmit messages -- encouraging people to come to health centres for check ups, reminders to take medication, and public health campaigns -- the HealthPhone™ is an innovative leap forward. HealthPhone™ provides families with their own personal reference library and guide to better health practices. Available in real time, right to those who need it, when they need it and when a health problem is about to strike, where they are, and as they are.
Preloaded Content on Low-Cost Mobile Phones
HealthPhone™'s health and nutrition content is scripted on knowledge prepared jointly by UNICEF, WHO, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNDP, UNAIDS, WFP and The World Bank. It addresses the main areas of concern; Timing Births, Safe Motherhood and Newborn Health, Child Development and Early Learning, Breastfeeding, Nutrition and Growth, Immunization, Diarrhoea, Coughs Colds and More Serious Illnesses, Hygiene, Malaria, HIV, Child Protection, Injury Prevention, Emergencies: preparedness and response. This content will be pre-loaded on popular low-cost models of mobile phones -- no signal is required, nor cost to download videos and other media. Users choose what they want to watch and listen to and when, wherever they happen to be.
Pilot content in English and 15 Indian Languages: Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Sanskrit, Tamil Telugu and Urdu.
HealthPhone™ is coming soon to a village, town, city, slum, block, district, state, province, country near you!