Government Policy

Mobile health aiding millions to get instant health advice

The stage is set for millions of people of the country to have easy, quick and affordable access to medical services through mobile health programme.

It comes as a relief for many patients to get medical advice from qualified doctors before their condition worsens.

The availability of low-cost mobile phones and already broad coverage of mobile network have created an opportunity for mobile health providers to render services that would trigger development and improve public health.

Primary health care services using mobile devices ensures improved access to primary health care and its gate-keeping function leads to less hospitalization and less chance of patients being subjected to inappropriate health interventions.

In Bangladesh, mobile health is a growing discipline for medical and public health practice. A number of organisations have been working for enhancing the role of mobile health in the health core.

The idea of introducing mobile health service has come into being due to the fact that it is not possible to manage doctors for 16 crore people. So the mobile health service is bridging the treatment gap.

Of late, Bangladesh has made commendable success in the health sector through the introduction of community clinics to reach health services to the doorsteps of people especially for mothers and children.

Mobile health service provider�Aponjon�seizing the opportunity of wider

technological options, is making its way, successfully providing mobile health

services to the common people.

Pregnant mothers, children and their family members are getting instant health services over mobile phones by just dialing '16227' after registering at mobile operators Grameen Phone, Airtel, Robi and Banglalink across the country.

The people in need are getting health advice by the mobile phone health service. Mobile health ensures the health services from specialist physicians.

Sources said the e-Health service is one of the most important initiatives of the present government to make the country's role stronger in digitalization stream. Bangladesh is the lone country among the South Asian countries who introduced the mobile health service first.

The then US former foreign minister Hilary Clinton inaugurated Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) as part of Global Health Initiative in the month of May in 2011.

Bangladesh started the service as a pilot project in the month of December in 2012. Later, the organization 'Aponjon' began its function independently.

Officials said around seven crore people use mobile phones across the country while the active mobile SIMS are around 13 crore.

So, the government has adopted the project as a public-private partnership initiative with the use of the mobile phone technology everywhere.

Health and Family Welfare Ministry and the Access to Information (A2I), Prime Minister's Office, are assisting the project. Private organization 'D-net

Bangladesh' is implementing the project with the financial assistant of different international NGOs, including USAID.

Rizwana Rashid Ani, former chief coordinator of Aponjon, said the project began its journey in Bangladesh in 2012 aimed at earning the Millennium Sustainable Goals (MDGs) to reduce the death rates of mothers and children.

We also got many successes through the mobile apps in the health sector, she added.

Many people from different areas across the country have been taking health services by calling '16227', Ani said.

Health specialized Dr Naznin Akther said, according to a survey, awareness and information can protect around 80 percent death rates during pregnancy and birth.

Many mothers and children in the country die in every hour for the complexities of pregnancy and birth, she said.

Naznin said many people in rural areas don't know the right information how to take care a mother and her child. They should know about the care which is most important in reducing death rate.

They can get help from the health services of Aponjon, she added.

Piash Islam, Marketing and Communication Executive of Aponjon, said, We began our journey as a projectBut now, we are giving the health services as a limited company.

People can get their health service round-the-clock, he said, adding they (people) can take medical advice and service dialing '16227' from any mobile number.

Mothers can have a package through prepaid card, Piash said, adding that they could buy three-month long package at Taka 55, six-month package at Taka 100 and one-year long package at Taka 200.

We have a plan to give services to the mothers through video calling in future, Piash said.

The mobile health service is absolutely serving the people of hard-to-reach areas where it is difficult for them to quickly rush to the hospitals. These people are getting health advice by the mobile phone health service.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)