Wireless ICT for Maternal and Newborn Health

An estimated 342,000 to 550,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth each year and 3.7 million children die in infancy.  Many of these deaths are entirely preventable and today, international health and technology groups announced a wide ranging collaboration to harness the power of information and communications technologies to fight this terrible scourge.

The consortium includes the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), which is “an international alliance of some 280 governments, donors, non-governmental organizations, health care professionals, academics, and multilateral agencies with the mission to support the global health community to work successfully towards achieving MDGs 4 and 5 by advocating for national, regional and global political commitments, and by raising funds to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality. “

The announcement came at the kick off meeting of the consortium during the Pacific Health Summit global health conference in London today. Here is the release from the PMNCH and the UN Foundation hosted mHealth Alliance:


LONDON (June 24, 2010) — 

A consortium of international groups announced today a call for collaboration to accelerate the use of modern information and communications technologies (ICTs), especially wireless, to improve maternal and newborn health in the developing world.  They called for financial and organizational support to leverage the growing use of wireless technology to expand the reach of proven maternal and newborn health interventions.

Dr. Tore Godal, Special Advisor on Global Health to the Prime Minister of Norway, opened the consortium’s first working meeting in London, saying: “Technological innovation is critical to meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals.  This mHealth initiative can help deliver more health for the money in delivering safer pregnancies and newborns around the world.” Godal is Co-Chairman of the Innovation Working Group of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Joint Action Plan for Maternal Health announced in April.

“More must be done to reduce global maternal and child mortality, and information technology, while not a panacea, will play a critical role in educating women and providers about how to deliver healthier pregnancies and healthier babies,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, Director  of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), hosted by the World Health Organization. PMNCH is facilitating the development of the Joint Action Plan, which will focus in part on innovation. The initial supporters include the mHealth Alliance, PMNCH, Family Care International, the GSM Association, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and Bloomberg School of Public Health, PATH, and the White Ribbon Alliance.

The joint statement calls for collaboration in a Maternal and Newborn mHealth Initiative with five primary action areas:

  • Identify how technology can help enable known interventions that address maternal & newborn health needs
  • Design and build the first models of information and communications technologies (ICT) systems to do this, and the content and policies to go with them
  • Create new metrics for evaluating programs, using the enormous amount of data ICT-supported programs will produce
  • Test these integrated, end-to-end, scalable solutions in a variety of countries to learn what works best
  • Share activities in all four of the above, and lessons learned and best practices, with the global maternal health communities through a variety of communications channels

“We are proud to be joining with these partners,” said David Aylward, Executive Director of the mHealth Alliance, an umbrella group launched last year by the Rockefeller, UN and Vodafone Foundations.  “Wireless networks go almost everywhere today.  So should life saving information and services for mothers and newborn babies.”