Health information services key for educating patients – Unicef chief

Health information services key for educating patients – Unicef chief

09 OCT 2015

LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 SERIES – AFRICA: Providing consumers with targeted and personalised health information is a vital step toward encouraging them to take action, advised Sanjana Bhardwaj, chief of health & nutrition for Unicef South Africa.

“A lot of the experience I’ve had personally is that people don’t know the information. If they know it, they can take action. So actually to give that power of information in a person’s hand, in a personalised manner, is quite an intense idea,” she said.

Discussing a maternal health pilot, Bhardwaj explained that executing such services presented a number of challenges in terms of integrating with – and managing the limitations of – the technology available. “I would have said at that time it was a nightmare to get it right,” she admitted.

“We wanted all the information to go to the mothers, and our partners and people who are skilled with mobile technology kept saying ‘no, you have to make it tighter, and you can only allow that many characters in an SMS.’ You don’t really realise how tough that is”.

“And then there was the added issue of converting it into different languages, converting it into Zulu and Sotho and making sure that it was still conveying the same message within the same character space,” Bhardwaj continued.

The executive said that driving adoption of the service was not an issue, but the nature of phone ownership among parts of the target market presented a challenge.

“What happens in reality is that people do share phones, and you don’t want someone else to be seeing that message, especially when it’s linked with healthcare. That put a different set of thinking on it, that while the message should be an important one, it should maintain confidentiality,” she said.

And another issue is deciding where to allocate resources, when a number of potential issues are worthy of address.

“Currently, we are dealing with what we do first. It’s not that we don’t want to do it, it’s what is the priority, and what needs to be done to take this as quickly as possible,” Bhardwaj added.

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Steve Costello

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