Healthcare and chronic disease rates aren’t distributed evenly across Africa’s communities or countries burden. A report by a team from Aetna Foundation in the Journal of Public Health Policy, Population health-based approaches to utilizing digital technology: a strategy for equity may offer a way to use eHealth to even them up. More specifically, it proposes that mHealth can help.
mHealth has a big role in engaging individuals and their communities in health and healthcare. It extends across accessing the Internet to find information about health conditions, monitoring health and fitness. Africa already has a wide range of mHealth services with plans for more. It’s 59% score on the WHO 2015 eHealth survey shows a respectable strategic foundation.
Aetna Foundation takes a long-term, systematic view in making its grants. Its focus is promoting wellness, health and access to high quality healthcare. It evaluates bids for projects using “strong evidence-based criteria.” They include sustainability, scalability, potential for positive societal impact, leveraging available evidence such as population health data or healthcare data, and digital health technologies built on strong foundations of behavioural research or other applicable theories.
This business case approach can help Africa’s health systems take good mHealth decisions. With a large mHealth evidence deficit, business cases enable rigorous assessments assumptions and estimates. They also support a switch away from seeking to achieve potential benefits to identifying more modest and realistic probable benefits. They also provide an analytical foundation for subsequent M&E, so adding to the current limited evidence pool.
Acfee’s preparing guidelines for Africa’s health systems on using a proven methodology for preparing business cases. It also deals with the business case process as part of good eHealth governance. Both a methodology and a process are needed for business cases to fulfil their role in decision taking.
Encouraging mHealth’s supply side’s important too. Aetna Foundation mentors mHealth innovators. Its approach to mHealth training that brings together leaders, behavioural sciences and clinical researchers offers lessons for Africa’s health system. Ministries of health, technology and economic development can collaborate to develop countries’ mHealth industries by setting clear mHealth priorities and working with local mHealth suppliers to develop and provide solutions and services.
These themes combine into mHealth strategies that extend beyond healthcare and into the technology world of universities and business entities. This extended value chain offers a structure to expanding mHealth from the valuable progress achieved in Africa so far.