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Sustainable Impact at Global mHealth Forum

By By Breese Arenth, Project Specialist, BID Initiative

Dec 13, 2014

Posted in , ,

Photo: PATH/Doune Porter

Photo: PATH/Doune Porter

If you follow the Potomac River south from Washington, DC, on the Maryland side you’ll come across a large hotel and convention center in National Harbor, MD. Here, the Gaylord National Convention Center is buzzing with the energy of over 500 people from 50 countries who have gathered to share knowledge and experiences around using mobile phones for health impact in low- and middle-income countries.

The Global mHealth Forum took place from December 10th-11th, as part of the annual mHealth Summit. It brought together representatives from ministries of health, technology innovators, global health nongovernmental organizations, donors, and multi-lateral organizations. Several of my colleagues from PATH attended–Laurie Werner and Kate Wilson of the BID Initiative–along with members of the BID Learning Network–Dominic Atweam from Ghana, Ousmane Ly from Mali, and Richard Gakuba from Rwanda.

The agenda featured many sessions categorized into tracks: access, design, ecosystem, evidence, finance, innovation, and local ownership. Mobile technologies are being used globally in a plethora of ways (e.g., data collection and reporting, disease surveillance, behavior change) across health areas such as maternal and child health, malaria, and family planning. Below are some of the key themes I heard emerge from the sessions:

  • Moving past pilots to scale: as a community, we are starting to evaluate the many pilots, learn from these experiences, and figuring out how to scale successful solutions. Discussions, including one chaired by PATH to release The Journey to Scale, emphasized long-term investment in solutions that effectively address a health priority, based in results and evidence.
  • A shared understanding of what we are working towards and the core framework for how to get there. Many people are drawing upon the Principles for Digital Development, and using those to guide our work.
  • Partnerships and collaboration: the community recognizes that we are not working in isolation to address these health problems, and our efforts both affect and rely on the efforts of others. There is a shared sense that we should move from competition to “co-opetition”: identifying and leveraging what each partner brings to the table towards a shared goal.
  • Local ownership and governance: digital health solutions inherently cross sectors – the information and communication technology and health sectors at minimum – so multi-sectorial leadership and governance is essential for integration, institutionalization, and health impact.

The BID Initiative embodies many of these values and best practices. The energetic passion and creativity here is stimulating, and the connections made here will hopefully inspire the digital health community to find new, better ways to use innovative tools to increase and sustain impact.

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