The two have already embarked on testing text-based and voicemail-based solutions to allow people with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cardiovascular maladies, respiratory diseases and cancer access constant notifications and information that will assist them in managing their conditions.
ITU’s secretary-general Hamadoun Touré said mHealth initiatives are the only solutions to these problems.
“Technological innovations are changing the landscape of disease prevention and control. The widespread availability of mobile technology, including in many of the least developed countries, is an exceptional opportunity to expand the use of e-health,” Touré said, quoted in Africa Renewal magazine.
According to ITU, there are six billion mobile phones on the continent, with the largest proportion in developing countries where NCDs are also prevalent.
WHO estimates the number of people who die every year from NCD-related complications at 36 million people, with deaths from NCDs expected to jump by 24 percent in Africa in the next decade. For this reason, WHO and ITU hope to launch vigorous campaigns via mobile phones to encourage people to eat healthy, exercise more and quit smoking.
WHO has already made use of mobile technology to gather data on tobacco use in 17 countries across the world, which it confirmed has proven more cost effective and less time consuming.
The two agencies believe that mHealth is the only way to combat these diseases and are encouraging other stakeholders, including government and application developers, to come up with innovative solutions aimed at promoting human health.