Tag Archives: Maternal and Child Health

“Smart” Undies

In class on Tuesday, March 18, we spoke about the difference between front office and back office in terms of the potential for ICTs in education. On Thursday we spoke of ICTs for health.  This article is about technologies that keep you away from the office altogether—the doctor’s that is.  Most of these technologies are mHealth technologies, defined by Meredith on her blog here.  There are eight initiatives: “smart” pill bottles, health tracking briefs, ThriveOn for customized mental health help, wearable fall protection underwear, baby monitor clipped to clothes, smart footwear, smartphone thermometer, and Scandu Scout to analyze vitals on your smartphone.  These are all new concepts that were on display at a recent South by Southwest conference.  I am going to analyze the two types of technological underwear.  Pixie Scientific is the company that created the health tracking briefs, smart diapers that contain an indicator panel that tracks UTIs and monitors hydration to prevent disease.  These diapers sound like a great idea for public health, more so than the ActiveProtective underwear with 3-D motion sensors to detect falls.


However, if Pixie Scientific and ActiveProtective could combine the two?  How amazing!  They would be preventing UTIs by tracking hydration, injury with micro-airbags in the underwear, and a call for help.  The cons to these undergarments would be cost—Pixie Scientifics briefs are disposable and the infant version has been around for a while.  ActiveProtective must be brand new, because there is not any information online yet, but I can’t imagine micro airbags and whatever “call for help” technology is, is cheap.  Pixie Scientific seems to still be in its research stage.  I found a funding project for the program on indiegogo.  The company claims they will use the $21,491 raised to “fund manufacturing, a data-gathering study at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, and another study meant to collect data for FDA registration”.  Mainly these diapers will screen for: urinary tract infections, prolonged dehydration, and developing kidney problems.  According to UrologyHealth, approximately 40 percent of women and 12 percent of men will experience at least one UTI in their lifetimes.  I’m a big fan of these diapers because I’m a public health major, and if they can reach their stretch goals: to search for endemic diseases and screen for early signs of type 1diabetes, that would be a huge deal in terms of promoting higher quality of life through disease prevention.


Using radio to promote safe motherhood: the Taru initiative

In our readings for this week, we learned about the power of a seemingly simple device: the radio. The Mary Myers article; “Why Radio Matters” made a case for the potential that the radio has to save lives and improve health outcomes by broadcasting health messages in form of radio soap operas. This may seem like a weird concept to us, but it has been proven successful in many developing countries around the world. I will share a case study from Bihar, India where a radio soap opera show was used to lower fertility rates, therefore decreasing maternal mortality.

Bihar is the poorest state in India and has the highest fertility rates. The average fertility rate in India is 2.6, yet the rate in Bihar remains above four. Only 34% of single females in Bihar reported using contraception of any kind, according to the 2001 Census in India. High fertility rates contribute greatly to maternal. A local NGO, Janani (which provides reproductive health care), a non-profit “Population Communication International,” and researchers from Ohio University paired up to address the dismal maternal health situation in Bihar. They produced and entertainment-education campaign targeting about 190 million men and women living in rural Bihar and three neighboring states. They reached their target audience through a radio program soap opera that aired once a week for a year. This 52- episode series was about the life of a fictional woman named Taru. As Vijaykumar (2008) states, the campaign sought to, “motivate listeners to take charge of their own health, seek health services, and better their living” (p. 182).

The campaign was a great success. Baseline vs. follow-up surveys of 1,500 households in Bihar showed that there was an increase in awareness family planning and an overall greater approval from people’s social networks about the use of family planning after the radio series. Utilization of family planning services also increased which portrays a great success; not only was this campaign able to educate and inform its audience, it actually caused behavior change which is not always an immediate outcome of mass media campaigns. In addition, condoms and other forms of contraception and pregnancy test sales increased “exponentially,” in several villages according to Vijaykumar (2008, p. 184). The study even found that there was an overall increase in gender equality beliefs among the respondents, which is a huge step in the right direction for maternal health because maternal mortality stems from the general lack of value placed on women’s lives in many developing countries. The fact that there were changes not only at the individual level, but also at the community and service-demand level highlights the extent of the success of this campaign. It was also able to influence social norms and behaviors, which is a huge barrier to public health movements and is especially important in a destitute area like Bihar where traditional cultural beliefs often persist and present themselves as barriers to modern public health campaigns. The only obvious downfall of this campaign in my opinion is that it only used one channel to attempt to reach a population of 190 million, but clearly, it still worked.

Radios can do more than you thought, huh?

Reference: Vijaykumar, S. (2008). Communicating safe motherhood: Strategic messaging in a globalized world. Marriage & Family Review, 44(2-3), 173-199. doi:10.1080/01494920802177378

Every Woman, Every Child Initiative

Johnson and Johnson is partnered with the United Nations to improve the health of up to 150 million women a year in developing countries by 2015. The first year of the program has just concluded. The program includes ICT, especially through the use of mobile phones to connect mothers with healthcare providers and using the mobile phones to disseminate healthcare and childcare information. The program partners NGOs, government services and the private sector in an attempt to improve mortality rates and quality of life among women and children in LDCs.

In the first year, Johnson and Johnson has aided in several programs under the umbrella of the Every Woman, Every Child Program, including Mobile Alliance For Maternal Action (MAMA) – an initiative using mobile phones to deliver prenatal and post-birth health information to 15 million new and expectant mothers in the developing world through 2015.

Original Post by Meghan Spector

New Progress Report on MDGs

Originally Posted: September 20, 2011 2:45:08 PM CDT
By: Danielle Kraus

A press release with information based on a study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at University of Washington in Seattle was released earlier today concerning the progress of developing countries in reaching the Millennium Development Goals of reducing infant and maternal mortality. The study predicts that “only 31 developing countries worldwide will achieve MDG 4 (to reduce the under-5 mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015) and 13 countries will reach MDG 5 (to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters during the same period).”  In sub-Saharan Africa, child mortality has actually increased since the Millennium Development Goals were drafted.  The article explains the difficulties in reaching these goals, which include obstacles like lack of adequate health care facilities or trained healthcare professionals, and lack of management capacity.  I think the predictions that this press release makes raise a lot of questions about the feasibility of the Millennium Development Goals and relate to some of the discussion we had in class last week.
Do you think that the MDGs mistakenly group all developing countries into one category and ignore the individual capacity and challenges of each country?
As each country’s obstacles are often different, do the MDGs make goals that are too generalized?
Could there be other issues in the developing countries that are more important in the short run than focusing on the MDGs (such as war, political conflict, etc.)

Click here to learn more! http://media-newswire.com/release_1158982.html