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Mobiles beep health messages to women

From pregnant women to community health workers in remote districts of Bihar, Haryana and Rajasthan, to the tea growing adivasis of Nilgiri hills in south India or in remote forested villages of Chhattisgarh, the click of the mobile, which has now an almost universal reach across this vast country of 1.2 billion people, is proving a useful solution.

Harnessing technology to access areas hitherto untouched by the national healthcare system, mobiles are being used increasingly to beep important health messages, like reminders to get the child inoculated and for pregnant women to get their check-ups done in time across India, particularly in states where social indicators are low. These innovative mobile applications run on basic phones and keep beeping the message - either as an animation or an interactive voice response - so long as the phone owner does not switch it off.

The Women Mobile Lifeline Channel application, designed by ZMQ Development, is being used by NGOs in villages to empower women. In the Mewat region of Haryana and Doodha in Rajasthan, the mobile applications provide women with information on maternal health, child immunisation, girl child healthcare and adolescent girl healthcare.

‘There is not enough content available for women at the grassroots level. Men just need one calculator, while women need many calculators like menstrual cycle calculator, immunisation calculator and pregnancy calculator. So this application is an integrated solution,’ Hilmi Qurashi of ZMQ Development, told IANS.

‘The channel also has a pregnancy and immunisation tracker with external voice applications giving reminder of the dates to the women and urging them to take action,’ added Qurashi. Women can choose either of the three options - voice, pictorial or written messages. The application is free of cost and made available in both English and Hindi.  The applications also have some simple games for entertainment as well as a section for inspirational stories to guide women to take decisions in life and make them more independent, said Qurashi.

‘In just 15 months’ time we have got 35,000 subscriptions, including 11,000 for pregnancy-related alerts and 8,000 for immunisation alerts. So, you can see how well it is being accepted by the people,’ said Qurashi. An NGO, BBC Media Action, has introduced similar applications in eight districts of Bihar. Their Mobile Kunji and Mobile Academy are being widely used by community health workers in Bihar for women and child healthcare.

‘Since 70 percent of the population has access to mobile phones we thought of utilising the phones to deliver timely and appropriate information,’ Siddarth Swarup of BBC Media Action told IANS.
Under Mobile Kunji, the specific healthcare needs of the woman and girl child is looked after through an interactive voice message.  ‘The interactive audio helps in providing credibility to what the health workers are saying. We have tied up with six operators, hence it’s toll free. We have given 38,512 Mobile Kunjis to health workers,’ added Swarup.

Mobile Academy is a training course application for the health workers, ASHAs and aganwadi workers on safe delivery measures, health and sanitation. Health workers have to pay 50 paise per minute for using Mobile Academy. On completion of the course the health worker is given a certificate from the government, Priyanka Dutt, project director of BBC Media Action, told IANS.    
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