mHealth Working Group July Meeting: Focus on Collaboration and Coordination
Another month brings another exciting meeting of the mHealth Working Group, the collaborative forum established in 2009 to share and synthesize knowledge on mHealth, supported by Knowledge for Health (K4Health). This month’s meeting, hosted by John Snow Inc (JSI) in Rosslyn, Virginia, consisted of four presentations that all focused on a common theme: collaboration. While this is a consistent theme of the mHealth Working Group and has been since its inception, there seems a new and actionable energy behind it: coordination. The group now comprises more than 120 organizations and 400 individuals as members, so there is diverse knowledge exchange.
This month’s meeting emphasis on collaboration and coordination reminded me of some basic ideas of public health programming: it is vital to collaborate with the appropriate stakeholders and include basic monitoring and evaluation in every aspect of program design and implementation. In September 1999, the MMWR through the CDC came out with a framework for program evaluation in Public Health, which highlights six basics of public health programming.
1) Engage stakeholders
2) Describe the program
3) Focus the evaluation design
4) Gather credible evidence
5) Justify conclusions
6) Ensure use and share lessons learned
These six principles come up frequently in mHealth discussions. As mHealth experts and professionals, I think we're finding that the technology does not change the process; it changes the channel and the medium to which we implement our programs. In mHealth, there is an ongoing effort to engage the private sector because we all recognize that they have become vital to the survival of mHealth programs. However, I also think this an opportunity for us to be creative in framing a dialog that markets public health in a way that engages the private sector telecommunications companies -- and relies heavily on the government to move these initiatives along. Otherwise, we continue to create new programs in a vacuum all over the world that make a small change to one area. Instead, we could be creating a much greater impact. A new term, with heavy negative connotations, has been coined to describe this reality: “pilot-it is.”
The first of the July mHealth Working Group presentations was made by Mike Frost of JSI, shared JSI’s experiences and progress in building its own internal mHealth Center, to better collaborate and support its projects as they consider, operate, and evaluate their mHealth initiatives. In the second presentation, John Novak, Office of HIV/AIDS, USAID shared about USAID’s efforts to increase coordination, collaboration, and harmonization of IT standards at the country level. The cornerstone of his presentation was how essential both coordination and collaboration. Novak discussed the challenges to implement these programs and highlighted ways to improve processes. In turn, he revealed a vision for improved efficiency, impact, and dramatic reductions of duplicated efforts and wasted funds.
In the third presentation, Peggy D’Adamo, USAID Knowledge Management and Advisor, led a debrief of the recent GSMA/mHealth Alliance mHealth Summit in Cape Town, South Africa. K4Health’s own Piers Bocock, and JSI’s Marasi Mwencha, shared many of the same ideas in their reflections on the mHealth Summit (for more on Piers’ take from the mHealth Summit read his blog, GSMA/mHealth Alliance Mobile Health Summit: More of the Same, with Hints of Progress). In the final presentation, David Haddad of the mHealth Alliance gave a short overview of the mHealth Alliance’s revamped HUB (Health Unbound) website, and noted that it would be launched to the public in the near future.
For further details on what was discussed at the latest mHealth Working Group meeting, check out the mHealth eToolkit and review the July 20 pre- and post-meeting notes along with past meeting notes. Click here for more information on joining the mHealth Working Group.
Rebecca Shore is a Communications Specialist at Knowledge for Health.