Ghana mHealth Ethnographic Study Shows Promise of Mobiles to Support Community Health

Posted by LeighJaschke on Sep 09, 2009

The recently released mHealth Ethnography Report is an important addition to the growing body of knowledge about the potential for community health initiatives supported by mobile technology. As we have noted before, much of the health care in rural communities is provided by community health workers, largely untrained paraprofessionals. 

The report hones in on the potential of SMS/text messages and voice services accessible via mobile to reinforce outreach services and support for these community health workers.  The authors assess the initial state of information, communication, and mobile phone use for maternal and newborn health in the health sector and the general population in the Dangme West District in the Greater Accra Region.

It indicates that mobile phones are already used by many healthcare workers and by the general population to seek health related information or coordinate related transportation in emergencies.

The study was conducted as a part of the Grameen Foundation initiative to determine how best to use mobile phones to increase the quantity and quality of antenatal and neonatal care in rural Ghana. The Mobile Technology for Community Health (MoTeCH) initiative is a collaboration of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Ghana Health Service, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Key findings:

  • Maternal and newborn health service delivery is well structured in Dagme West, and appreciated by the general population.     
  • Outreach services are well structured


  • Recent decline in the demand for services due to non-renewed health insurance.
  • Links to and roles of community health volunteers are poorly defined.

The report highlights the fact that mobile technologies are already in use for consultation in the health sector in the areas of administration and emergency support. This presents an opportunity to streamline data capture and reporting practices. There is also an opportunity to realign MoTECH within the broader eHealth ecosystem in Ghana. Additionally, data captured with phones could be integrated into a national health database.


  • Continued effort to identify easy ways for outreach healthcare workers to text in important health information with their phones.
  • The use of voice over text for outreach to pregnant women and recent mothers
  • As well as linking to other broadcast and community media outlets

The full report can be found here. Photo courtesy of the AppLab website.

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