Filling the gap: Reflection on the Certificate course on Mobile Phones For Public Health organized by Techchange

by Marijs Carrin at Digital Campus

Recently, I was given the timely opportunity by Digital Campus to participate in a four-week online course on Mobile phones for Public Health, which examined the power of mobile technology and its revolutionary role in improving health outcomes worldwide.

The course focused on health education; service delivery and capacity building for health workers; patient care; diagnostics; as well as supply management and logistics. Throughout that month I gained new insight and reflected upon the benefits and remaining challenges of mobile health (mHealth), as we continuously try to adapt our Oppia mobile – health education and training- application to extend its use among health workers on a more global scale.

My preferred aspects of the course were:

  1. The vast amount of resources (videos, documents, presentations, exercises, links) available on mHealth;
  2. Learning about various mHealth tools and getting hands-on experience using them;
  3. The framework and taxonomy used in classifying mHealth projects (Dr. Alain Labrique, Founding director of the Johns Hopkins University Global mHealth Initiative);
  4. An outline of current evidence and projects.

The presentation by Dr. Labrique, one of the most respected professionals with years of experience in the field, was particularly useful and very inspirational to me. He shared a detailed synopsis of lessons learnt, opportunities and ideas around mHealth today, and allowed me to extend my knowledge regarding the definition, use and future of mHealth.

Dr. Labrique’s words have encouraged me to start thinking more outside the box. Innovation is critical in this field (also for development) and the examples of how it has changed the game are vast. Indeed, he emphasised that the success of mHealth interventions has to go beyond technology. The most important aspect, I learnt, is to create simple, sustainable and efficient solutions to health systems that are dynamic, crosscutting and moreover accessible to all. In a nutshell, mHealth is about people (or beneficiaries), not phones.

Finally, as we move forward in trying to develop, improve and adapt our app, I will keep Dr. Labrique’s words ingrained in my mind: not to ignore that mobile platforms need good design and functionality, but it needs to be equally fun and creative so that the end user (i.e. in our case health workers) “will want to continue to use the system beyond just being part of a routine job description.”

Filling the huge gap between technology and people is a challenge of the digital era. There is a lot of potential for great things to be achieved – and many have been already – but it is, in my opinion, essential that we don’t loose focus of the purpose and feasibility of the whole endeavor.

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