Healthcare Technology Featured Article

December 11, 2014

USAID and Orange Come Together to Increase mHealth in Africa

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was in part inspired by the efforts of the Marshall Plan after World War II. International aid became foreign policy in the U.S., with precursors such as the Foreign Operations Administration and the International Cooperation Administration before John F. Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act into law and created USAID by executive order. Since that time, USAID has helped countless countries around the world in mounting essential functions and infrastructures in food and nutrition, population planning, education, health welfare and human resources development. The latest such effort is a collaboration between the agency and Orange Telecommunications to increase mHealth initiatives and innovations in Africa.

The recent Ebola outbreak is a great example of how effective communication could have helped slow the spread of the virus. According to the CDC, the inadequacies of the healthcare systems in the three most-affected countries help to explain how the Ebola outbreak got this far. While Spain spends $3,000 per person in healthcare and the U.S. has 245 doctors per 100,000 people, Sierra Leone only spends $300 per person and has less than five physicians per 100,000 people.

With resources that are so dismal, it is essential to introduce technology that can disseminate critical health information as soon as possible to slow and even stop the potential outbreak of any other diseases, including Ebola.

The announcement was made by Orange, and as the company stated, it will develop innovations in mobile health (mHealth) at the Global mHealth Forum in Washington, D.C. along with USAID to help provide healthcare for individuals in developing countries in Africa.

Mobile technology has already changed Africa by providing an effective communications solution and the largest mobile banking region in the world, using the platform for the delivery of healthcare is a natural evolution.

“With the increasing use and decreasing cost of mobile phones, leveraging mobile phone technology to accelerate access to health information and services is a game changer,” said Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, USAID’s Assistant Administrator for Global Health.

According to the plan outlined by both organizations, they will first evaluate local resources including the technology and the number of healthcare professionals available to provide the service. Once this has been established, healthcare workers can use the technology to share medical expertise, collaborate with specialists and improve patient care no matter where they are located.

The benefit of using Orange for this initiative is, the company has mobile and fixed networks in 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East, which will provide seamless and reliable access to the mHealth services.

“Together with USAID, we are creating innovative mHealth platforms that open up the opportunities for remote patient monitoring or healthcare workers to make better-informed decisions and facilitate quality care for all citizens,” said Thierry Zylberberg, Director, Orange Healthcare.

As the wireless technology in developing countries around the world continue to improve, individuals in these nations will be able to access more medical service from the US, Europe and other mature markets with great healthcare. The USAID and Orange partnership is just the beginning of what will hopefully will be a long and fruitful endeavor to help those less fortunate than us get reliable healthcare.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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