Day 1 @ Bellagio: Local Impact of mHealth

By Katherine Miller, Executive Director of Communications at the UN Foundation

The United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Group Foundation, in cooperation with the Rockefeller Foundation, is hosting a four-day conference to explore an emerging trend, mHealth, that harnesses mobile communications technologies to tackle global health care issues. Around the table are many of the world’s recognized leaders in this field (along with some of the biggest funders) and if this first day of conversation is any indication of what’s to come, it’s going to be an interesting and informative discussion.Represented at the meeting are public health systems, technology companies, major foundations, and dynamic NGOs with interest and/or experience in utilizing the latest technology to tackle everything from data collection to better clinical services to health education campaigns. Today was the day to discuss ways mHealth is being implemented in local communities and start exploring the potential impacts of the broader implementation of mHealth strategies.

Dr. Krishan Ganapathy, the President of the Apollo Telemedicine Foundation, opened his presentation with, “You can’t have successful mHealth, without India.” One-sixth of the world’s population lives in India and its citizens are adopting mobile phones at an explosive rate (a 13,300 percent increase in cellular subscribers since 1998!).

The government, responding to a need to provide basic services, has created a National Telemedicine Task Force, and Dr. Ganapathy went through a variety of ways that India is utilizing existing technology to diagnose and treat patients. This country-wide experiment dedicated to empowering health officials and delivering better health care services in local communities is clearly working. If being able to clearly identify a brain aneurysm on a hand-held mobile phone is possible in rural India — which it is — than it is possible anywhere.