July 1, 2014

The GSMA, which represents mobile operators worldwide, said its Mobile for Development mHealth program has launched a new cross-ecosystem partnership designed to provide a range of mHealth services to women and children, with a particular focus on nutrition, across Sub-Saharan Africa.

GSMA Chief Regulatory Officer Tom Phillips said the new mobile ecosystem partnership, which includes Gemalto, Hello Doctor, Lifesaver, Mobenzi, Mobilium, MTN, Omega Diagnostics and Samsung, will work collectively to reduce barriers to mobile technology for consumers and health workers by bringing together the mobile and health industries to develop commercially sustainable mHealth services that meet public health needs on the continent.

The aim of the partners is to simplify the relationships between mobile and health stakeholders while maximizing the nature of mobile technology and its capabilities for health providers and, ultimately, for patients.

“The companies in this partnership are working to deliver the objectives of the United Nations Every Women Every Child Global Strategy, as well as the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact, in the areas of nutrition and maternal and child health,” said Phillips.

The partnership heralds a new era in the delivery of health care in Sub-Saharan Africa, where currently access to some of the most basic of health services remains dire and current lab-based static diagnostics tools are unable to meet growing patients’ needs as countries step up their HIV treatment programs in conjunction with the decentralization of CD4 testing.

The initiative plans to offer discounted Samsung handsets and tablets (including a pre-embedded Smart Health application that provides a range of professional applications, information and services) to consumers and health workers across Africa, and provide access to incentives such as Samsung ecosystem–music, video and other value-added services–to drive health usage among population.

Leveraging existing and new MTN SIMs to allow free access to health content, health registration and data collection via the Smart Health application, it will provide simplified access to MTN mobile money, advertising and other financial services and make innovative diagnostics like the Omega Diagnostics Visitect HIV CD4 point-of-care solution more affordable and accessible via mobile integration.

Its hopes through removing those barriers, access to health content, patient registration, data collection and critical diagnostics will increase the access to health care for vulnerable women and children across Africa while providing the delivery mechanism for mHealth services that are commercially sustainable and scalable.

As the healthcare industry in Africa improves and moves towards a delivery model that is more patient-centered, value-based and accessible, the industry will benefit greatly from mobile technology advancements that can make services accessible in even remote environments.

“Multi-layer partnerships for mHealth smartphone applications are poised to become an essential foundation in the bridge to augment the continuum of care to the neediest patients, whilst also providing management information and real time surveillance data,” added Andrew Shepherd, founder and managing director, Omega Diagnostics.

Phillips calls on mobile ecosystem players, health providers, governments, NGOs, civil society and others to join and “work with us to launch life-saving mobile health services.”

Phillips said the program will be launched in two phases: In September the initial launch partners will jointly launch services in seven African countries – Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia. Phase two, which will start in 2015, will add more partners and services, and will address four more countries: Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

“Samsung is perfectly positioned to add value to this digital evolution in health care, as our devices are both at the cutting edge of innovation and available widely across the continent. These capabilities provide the much needed healthcare support in Africa, ensuring that we are aligned with the Millennium Development Goals as set by the United Nations,” said Thabiet Allie, head of content and services at Samsung Electronics Africa.

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