June 12, 2013
How Mobile Phones Can Improve Health Care
Obstetric fistula, an abdominal injury that occurs in unattended childbirth and causes incontinence, is among the most intractable challenges of extreme poverty. Bloomberg reports.
In Tanzania, a pilot program that relies on mobile-phone communication hasbrought fistula sufferers in remote areas to a central hospital for reparative surgery.
In 2009, hospital staff members, with support from the United Nations Population Fund, decided to find the patients. They assembled a countrywide network of volunteers and armed them with mobile phones and basic training to identify potential patients.
Candidates were then diagnosed over the phone; those who appeared to be suffering from obstetric fistula were sent money for bus fare ($30 on average) through a mobile-phone money-transfer service, in care of the volunteer. Volunteers, in turn, received small incentive payments (about $3.50 a referral). This strategy has more than tripled the hospital's fistula operations, from 150 in 2009 to 500 last year.
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