Empowering community health workers with mobile health technology to save lives

Maternal and neonatal mortality continues to be a significant problem in Nigeria. Along with insufficient financing, medical supply gaps, and service delivery challenges, a lack of adequately trained birth attendants is a key health system-facing issue preventing significant improvements in maternal and child mortality in Nigeria.

The Lifesaving Intervention Project of Rural health Mission Nigeria has proven to be highly impactful in remote communities where this project is implemented with a remarkable reduction in rampant cases of maternal complications including mortalities. This project supports pregnant women with free prenatal medications and trains birth attendants on basic lifesaving skills to support pregnant women in remote communities on birth preparedness and complication readiness. Clean birth kits are also distributed to rural health facilities to support clean and safe delivery practices. The project train and supports home health volunteers to conduct pre and postnatal home visits to support pregnant women and their newborn babies. The practice of home visits by the volunteers is seen to improve quality maternal care in the community as reported by Nigeria health watch. Based on the report, a beneficiary Halima Suleiman admittedly said; “A health worker calling and visiting me to ask of my wellbeing gives me so much joy and encouragement. It has reduced so much fear I had at the beginning of my pregnancy”.

 The lifesaving intervention project which was first launched in the Mambilla plateau of Sardauna LGA in Taraba in 2019 is currently ongoing in 4 states including Gombe, Yobe, Taraba, and plateau state. Over 1000 pregnant women have been supported, 120 home health volunteers or birth attendants have been trained, and over 100,000 doses of prenatal medication have been distributed across 40 communities so far. The project hopes to support up to 4000 pregnant women and train 500 home health volunteers across remote communities in 2 years.

In addition, the project also introduced the community health workers to an SMS-based, free-for-use mobile technology to promote improved maternal health practices in remote communities. The mHealth technology, otherwise called the critical healthcare information integration network (CHIIN) is designed and deployed by a US-based nonprofit organization in collaboration with Rural Health Mission Nigeria to help community health workers provide high-quality healthcare in remote communities. The CHIIN platform is an SMS-based, free-for-use mHealth medical reference tool that gives CHWs access to relevant medical information based on important considerations and best practices in sexual health and family planning, pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postnatal mother and infant care, without the need to use the internet. In addition, the tool contains a database of information on the risk factors, symptoms, diagnoses, management strategy, drug information, and complications of nearly 100 context-relevant infectious and noncommunicable diseases.

Most fascinating about this technology is that it does not require the internet nor smartphone to function. It works on any mobile phone that can send and receive SMS even in the remotest community. It is easy to use by CHWs and users are not charged for sending and receiving any information on this platform. This technology eliminates the cost of data to browse the internet, the time taken searching for information on practice manuals or guides. It’s a friendly job aid for community health practitioners to provide high-quality care in low-resource settings.

Watch how the mHealth mobile technology works

This technology allows the health workers to practice with confidence as it links them to highly reliable medical information and best practices.

With this support from the CHIIN team, it’s believed that the lifesaving intervention project will double its impact and it will also accelerate its broader vision of reducing maternal, child, and neonatal mortality in remote communities in Nigeria.