Mobile health ‘can support cancer care’

  • October 23, 2014

Mobile technologies can support and improve cancer care and other non-communicable diseases in developing countries, according to a new study.

Mobile technologies can support and improve cancer care and other non-communicable diseases in developing countries, according to a new study.

Gates Cambridge Scholar Isaac Holeman is lead author on the article entitled Mobile health for cancer in low to middle income countries: priorities for research and development, published in the European Journal of Cancer Care.

The article argues that many current global health opportunities have to do with the coordination and delivery of care. In particular, there is an urgent need to address the growing problem of cancer in countries of low and middle income through both research and service delivery innovation. The authors say mobile technology can reduce costs, improve access to health services and strengthen health systems to meet the interrelated challenges of cancer and other noncommunicable diseases.

They state: “Cancer researchers and practitioners have an opportunity to leverage mobile health [mHealth] technologies that have successfully targeted other health conditions, rather than reinventing these tools. We call for particular attention to human-centred design approaches for adapting existing technologies to suit distinctive aspects of cancer care and to align delivery with local context – and we make a number of recommendations for integrating mHealth delivery research with the work of designers, engineers and implementers in large-scale delivery programmes.”

The article shows how solutions used for existing health problems can be repurposed, using local expertise, to treat cancer and other non-communicable diseases, even in the poorest countries with the most basic healthcare systems. The researchers conclude: “Mobile technologies are being used to encourage preventative behaviours, create patient pathways to care and enhance the quality of services. Many of these tools are open source and freely available. Adapting these interventions to support cancer care and control will require well-funded and concerted efforts of engineers, designers, clinicians and public health managers and researchers. While there are notable challenges and potential pitfalls, a bold mHealth innovation, research and implementation agenda has great potential to address the interrelated challenges of cancer and other non-communicable diseases worldwide.”

Isaac Holeman [2013], who is doing a PhD in Management Studies, is the co-founder of Medic Mobile, a social enterprise that uses technology to improve the health of underserved communities. The paper describes a pilot initiative by Medic Mobile in Malawi which equipped community health workers with mobile phones and trained them to liaise with a nurse at a district hospital to improve cancer care as well as treatment for other illnesses, such as HIV and tuberculosis.

More information can be found here.

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