November 16, 2014

Despite all the shiny devices and snazzy health apps in the United States, there may be even more promise for mobile phones to improve people’s health in developing countries.

The biggest hurdle? Taking all the great ideas currently brewing to a large scare.

Toward that end, Laura Raney co-founded the mHealth Working Group in 2009 with a mission to frame mobile technology within a larger global health strategy. Since then, the organization has gone from 20 members in Washington, D.C., to nearly 1,800 members representing more than 500 organizations across 77 countries.

Now the workgroup is stepping it up by holding the first-ever Global mHealth Forum, a two-day event in partnership with U.S. Agency for International Development on Dec. 10-11. The forum will be held simultaneously with the mHealth Summit 2014 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center just outside Washington, D.C., and will focus on mobile and connected health in low- and middle-income countries.

Raney, coordinator of the Global mHealth Forum, said the forum will bring together public and private sector organizations to share the latest evidence, experiences and lessons learned on new applications and approaches in mHealth.

“It is great to see the emphasis on bringing in a more diverse group of national experts,” said workgroup member Kate Wilson, director at Digital Health Solutions, who is looking forward to the dialogue being driven by national leaders at the forum.

Over the past two years, in fact, somewhere between 2,000 to 3,000 mHealth projects have been launched worldwide, with only 10 of those being scaled to anything resembling a global presence.

One such large-scale effort was developed as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-supported Ananya Program in Bihar, India.

The project, dubbed “Kilkari,” uses BBC Media Action’s audio messaging service for pregnant women and mothers.

The Indian government has chosen to expand the Kilkari pilot to reach an estimated 10 million families and 1.1 million frontline health workers across India. Kilkari will be launched in conjunction with Mobile Kunji, an audio visual job aid for Frontline Health Workers (FLWs), and Mobile Academy, an audio training course for FLWs in 2015. All three services will be toll-free, according to Sara Chamberlain, head of Interactive for BBC Media Action in India.

The mHealth Summit 2014 runs from Dec. 7-11. Register here.

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