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Northern Regional Library’s Technology for Maternal Health Project has got off to a flying start: 94 pregnant women are now receiving vital health information sent directly to their mobile phones; the library’s health corner has been formally launched, and 10 health workers have been trained to use computers to conduct research.
Northern Regional Library in Tamale is working in partnership with the local development agency Savana Signatures to implement the maternal health service. Savana Signatures provides technical support for the SMS service, helped install the library Health Corner and provides information and communication technology (ICT) training for health workers.
The library’s new Health Corner has five computers where health workers and members of the public have free access to the internet. The library reports that health workers especially are using the computers to seek information for lectures and presentations they conduct at antenatal clinics in Tamale and rural areas.
Each computer has been installed with content provided by international agencies, including Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA); Medical Aid Films, and the Ghana health service. All content for the Heath Corner and the SMS service is carefully checked by a committee of local health workers to insure that it is accurate and locally relevant.
In addition to providing free access to computers, the library’s Health Corner is a training centre where Savana Signatures provides essential ICT training for health workers, to improve their research and communication skills. Ten health workers have received training, and another ten are to be trained in October.
The library Health Corner was officially commissioned by the Deputy Northern Regional Minister and the Northern Regional Health Director of the Ghana Health Service. It is attracting intense interest, and other health service providers, for example, the Tamale Teaching Hospital, are approaching the library with requests for information in different formats – film, audio and text – and for their maternal health education programmes.
Previous project updates:
Background to Technology for Maternal Health
Serving a community need
Accurate statistics for maternal mortality (death through complications related to pregnancy and childbirth) are hard to come by in Ghana, because of the unknown numbers of women and adolescent girls who die silently in communities and are quietly buried without registration. However, there is general agreement that the numbers – estimated at between 1,400 and 3,900 a year – are unacceptably high. Similarly, it is difficult to quantify deaths of infants.
Every month, the Northern Regional Library in Ghana hosts Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) lectures. After lectures on the value of ICT to heath services, health workers reported that pregnant mothers were only visiting clinics about once a month, and that the time they were able to spend with the mothers-to-be was insufficient to provide much-needed advice and guidance.
The new service
The Technology for Maternal Health service aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality by providing information and advice. Northern Regional Library will create an e-health corner, equipped with five computer terminals and Internet access. Working with their partners, the library will train health workers to research the Internet for information about maternal health, and to create health information packs. They will also train health workers to create short messages about maternal health to send to mothers-to-be via mobile phone text messaging (SMS) each week. The service will directly reach 100 mothers-to-be by sending them two health text messages a week for 10 months. Community health workers will also organize meetings of pregnant women and mothers in the library, reaching at least 200 more expectant mothers with health information.
Northern Regional Library will partner with Savana Signatures, a local ICT4D agency. Savana Signatures will provide training for the health workers and expertise in installing equipment and setting up systems for the SMS information service.
The Ministry of Health will provide content for the service and select health workers for training. The Tamale Metropolitan Assembly will facilitate the partnership with the mothers.
Community health nurses, who have direct contact with the pregnant women, will be vital to the success of the project, and will package content, send text messages and organize meetings with mothers.
Capture: Health workers at the library's monthly ICT4D forum. The library's new service grew out of health workers' concern about maternal mortality.