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By Cathleen O'Grady
According to the United Nations, more than 350,000 women die every year from maternity-related complications, with the risk being vastly higher in the developing world. Hesperian Health Guides (HHG), FBB’s Q3 Poverty and Health beneficiary, is working toward Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5: Improve maternal health – with a 21st-century solution.
The “Safe Pregnancy and Birth” mobile app, available in English and Spanish for iPhone and Android, aims to support pregnant women, midwives, and health workers by delivering vital information in a simple and quick format. The app includes information on how to remain healthy throughout a pregnancy, as well as how to identify and deal with danger signs. It also contains basic treatment information on topics such as taking blood pressure or stopping bleeding.
Although a smartphone app aimed at the developing world may seem like a counterintuitive solution, it has several advantages. Firstly, it is available worldwide, without the expense and logistics of on-the-ground distribution of physical materials. Secondly, basic and feature phones are one of the primary methods of communication in remote areas with no wired telecommunications infrastructure – and with the ever-decreasing price of smartphones, phones such as low-range Androids are poised to take over this role, meaning that access to apps such as these will only increase.
Since its release (in early 2012 for the English version and March 2013 for the Spanish version), the app has been downloaded more than 95,000 times in more than 180 countries, and has been recognized as a winner of the “She Will Innovate” competition run by Intel and Ashoka Changemakers. Future plans for the application include releasing it in additional languages.
As mentioned in our blog post on MDG 5, many of the current maternity-related deaths worldwide are preventable, and maternal mortality can be greatly reduced by access to adequate medical services. A service such as HHG’s Safe Pregnancy and Birth app, which ensures that health workers are adequately informed and helps to educate pregnant women about their health and warning signs, has the potential to dramatically improve worldwide access to lifesaving information and health care.
7/24/2013: This post has been updated to reflect current app download stats.