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Reported February 14, 2013

More Evidence is Needed for Mobile Health

 

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- There are over 6 billion mobile device subscribers and 75% of the world has access to a mobile phone.  There have been hundreds of studies on using mobile heath, also called “mHealth,” which describes public and medical health practice supported by mobile technology.  However, new research is saying there is insufficient evidence to inform the widespread implementation of this technology.
 
Because there are so many mobile phone users, it has lead national governments, researchers, and health care providers to be optimistic about the opportunities mobile health can offer. Researchers at Stellenbosch University in South Africa question the evidence supporting the scale-up of “mHealth.”
 
“In some ways, mobile technology has a magical appeal for those interested in global public health over and above the advantages that have been proven with good evidence. Part of this magical promise is that mobile technologies may solve one of the most difficult problems facing global health efforts—that of structural barriers to access,” Mark Tomlinson, lead study author, and his colleagues were quoted as saying.
 
Enthusiasm for “mHealth” interventions in sub-Saharan Africa is high, but there is little evidence to show their effectiveness. "The current waves of mHealth interventions are the equivalent of black boxes. Each small entrepreneur or researcher includes whatever bells and whistles that their funding allows in an attempt to demonstrate efficacy,” study authors said.  
 
The study authors want potential research designs to include: multi-factorial strategies randomized controlled trials, and data farming.  They believe these could provide better evidence base and could make several recommendations for moving forward.
 
"We also believe a global strategy for programmatic examination of the optimal features of the mobile platforms is needed,” study authors explained.
 
Also, authors argue that major donors could invest in creating a set of standards and a platform that could support and inform the local adaptation of “mHealth” applications.  The features of the platform could be available to all local technicians who ware dedicated to improving the health of their local communities.  
 
SOURCE:  PLOS Medicine, February 2013
 
 
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