Entries in Global Health (2)


How Cell Phones, Mobile Devices, iPhones Save Lives in Poor Countries

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(CAPE TOWN, South Africa) -- More than 5 billion people in the world today have cell phones, and they are doing a lot more than just talking. Globally, people are using mobile phones to surf the web, telecommute and, increasingly in the developing world, send and receive money.

The next revolution will not be televised, technology experts say, but be driven by devices that fit into the palm of your hand.

Part of that revolution is using mobile technology to deliver and track health care services, a practice referred to as mhealth. While people in the United States and Europe are focused on how the latest iPhone app will make their lives easier, wireless technology is literally saving lives in poor countries such as those in Africa and Asia.

A new WHO report, "mHealth: New Horizons for Health through Mobile Technologies," focuses on the impact mobile devices and the Internet are having on global access to health care. The report, launched at the Mobile Health Summit held in Cape Town, South Africa this week, finds that more than 70 percent of mobile subscribers live in low- and middle-income countries.

It also says that commercial wireless signals cover more than 85 percent of the world. Places that might have no electricity or a safe water supply could easily have cellphone coverage. But having seemingly high-tech advancement in places lacking basic infrastructure isn't only a problem; it's also an opportunity.

"Things that are being learned in Africa can be used in other parts of the world, including the United States," said Adele Waugaman, senior director of Technology Partnerships for the United Nations Foundation, which supported the WHO study.

The U.N. Foundation and telecommunication giant Vodacom have been partnering for the past five years to try and fund innovative mhealth projects. One of their most successful is DataDyne, a company founded by Dr. Joel Selanikio of the United States. Selanikio started his career in IT, went to medical school and eventually specialized in global health with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the Mobile Summit, health care professionals, humanitarian groups, mobile network operators and government representatives also discussed some of the challenges with mhealth. For example many programs are still in the pilot stages, governments have yet to regulate issues such as patient confidentiality and liability, and network operators and other telecommunications industry groups want mhealth to develop an eco-system that will be a financially sustainable business model.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Johns Hopkins Students Win Save a Life Maternal Health Challenge

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- Three graduate students from Johns Hopkins School of Engineering in Baltimore have made their mark with a revolutionary design: a pen-sized device that can help screen pregnant women and newborns in developing countries for potentially life-threatening conditions such as gestational diabetes and anemia. And it costs less than half a cent per test.

The Johns Hopkins team, led by graduate students Sean Monagle, Maxim Budyansky and Matthew Means, are the winners of the 2011 "Be the Change: Save a Life Maternal Health Challenge," which was launched by ABC News in partnership with the Duke Global Health Institute and the Lemelson Foundation.

Selected from more than 65 video entries submitted by university students internationally, the winning team will be awarded a grand prize of $10,000 and will receive mentoring and support from the Lemelson Foundation, which provides college inventors with seed capital to develop, refine and take their inventions to market.

The students will also present their idea in November before global health experts at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health Conference.

Ninety-nine percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, and 90 percent of those deaths can be prevented with simple interventions. The team's antenatal screening kit is the first of its kind.

Working closely with Jhpiego, a leading non-governmental organization in maternal and child health, the Johns Hopkins students developed a device that allows community health workers in rural areas of developing countries to deliver crucial screening tests through a unique delivery mechanism: a pen.

Health Care workers that travel village to village can use the pen to mark a strip of filter paper and give it to a pregnant woman. The patient can then urinate directly on the strip, similar to a pregnancy test.  A color change indicates a positive test result for the condition being screened. The technology can detect life-threatening conditions early and essentially prevent millions of unnecessary deaths each year.

The new device provides different pens for various conditions, among them gestational diabetes, malnutrition, urinary tract infection, anemia and neonatal jaundice. It will also screen for conditions such as pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, which alone cause 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths per year. Each test will cost half a cent, compared to current screening methods that cost about 20 cents per test -- far too expensive for use in rural areas of developing countries.

Two runners-up from Harvard University and Tulane University were also selected, and will receive mentorship from the Lemelson Foundation network.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio