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mHealth system for rural healthcare in Nigeria

Thirty-Two (32) years after the Alma-Ata declaration of 1978 which stated that access to basic healthcare services is a fundamental human right. The reality is that many people particularly in the areas with lack of resources are still not having equitable access to basic healthcare services. The challenges facing the delivery of affordable healthcare services are debatably one of the most essential problems to sustainable global development.  The larger percentage of the illnesses and diseases putting burden on the global community is found in the developing countries.

Additionally, inadequate access to good healthcare services in developing countries particularly in the rural villages has higher contribution to the increase in mortality rate amongst the children and the pregnant women. United Nations 2008 report shows that there is higher probability for child born in a developing country to dies within their early age (mostly before age five of their life) than those born in the developed country even though the diseases leading to these deaths are preventable through vaccinations and basic healthcare services. 

Infact, UNDP 2003 report confirmed that over 30 000 children die each day from diseases that are preventable, more than 500 000 women die during childbirth and complications in pregnancy, over 1 million under 5 years old children die of malaria every year, approximately 20 million people have died of HIV/AIDS while over 38 million are living with the disease, 8 million people develop active tuberculosis each year out of which 2 million die of it.

Meanwhile, the fast growing of mobile communication in the developing countries is serving a vital role in leapfrogging development in providing healthcare services to the citizen and should be replicated in Nigeria. The motivation behind the development of mHealth arises from two major factors and it serves as a basis for increasing discussion of how greater access to mobile phone technology can mitigate the numerous pressures faced by developing countries’ healthcare systems. Firstly are the numerous hindrances encountered by healthcare systems of developing nations, particularly in Nigeria such high burden of disease prevalence, low health care professional as a result of brain drain and large numbers of rural inhabitants. Secondly is the dramatic penetration rate of mobile technology. Infact, Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) report shows that within the period of six months that GSM was launched, more than 350,000 mobile lines were active and by March 2004 it has risen to 3.8 million, also average of over 8 million lines is being recorded per year from 2001 to 2009 in Nigeria.

Although, mHealth applications has been designed for industrialized nations, the field has emerged in recent years as mostly been adapted for use in developing countries. It then, generally developed as a means of providing greater access to larger segments of a population in developing countries as well as improving the capacity of health systems in such countries to provide quality healthcare.

Global Resources Information Technology Network (GRITEN) has develop a model of mHealth system that can be replicated in various local government within the country and eventually integrated into Primary Healthcare (PHC) system nation wide.This project is the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa particularly in Nigeria and it involves establishing community-based health center in different rural communities. Diagnoses and treatment are done by the professional doctor in the urban general hospital through mobile technology, Community Based Health Workers (CBHWs) is served as an interface for the patient who collect diagnoses data and transmitted to the professional doctor.

 

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