Last week I spoke at the launch of the Dulce Wireless Tijuana, a project implemented through Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach initiative that works to help underserved communities in Tijuana to improve diabetes care by using mobile technology to educate, monitor and treat the condition.
Today, 1.2 million people along the Mexico and U.S. border are living with diabetes. In less than four decades, it’s become the most prominent public health problem around the U.S.-Mexico border. With the help of Dulce Wireless Tijuana, health care workers at the largest IMSS (the Social Security Institute of Mexico) Clinic in Mexico are using mobile applications, web applications, mobile phones, netbooks and laptops to provide more proactive treatment for people in the region with or at risk of diabetes.
It never fails to amaze me the ways that mobile broadband is impacting the world. And when I think about health care, the seemingly simple act of connecting patients to their health community can be astoundingly impactful. This becomes very clear when listening to the stories of those who treat patients. While in Tijuana, I had the opportunity to meet two Promotores working at the clinic - a Promotor is someone that goes into the community and acts as a liaison for the patients with their doctors and nurses.
Adriana Guitierrez is a young woman who has been working as a Promotora for the last 4 years. She says that Promatores are really teachers and the mobile education content accessible on their mobile devices increases the effectiveness of her visits when she’s in the field. She also says that her role as a Promatora is important because Promatores live in the community – they are a part of it. Patients are sometimes embarrassed about their condition or intimidated by the doctors but they feel comfortable talking to a Promator about their condition. And for this reason, her ability to communicate and monitor patients is more effective. Adriana believes her interactions with patients will increase thanks to Dulce Wireless Tijuana.
Umberto de Lira is also a Promator and has lived with diabetes for the last 22 years. He is passionate and confident about the advancements that have been made in treating diabetes. He says that it’s hard to take care of yourself when you have diabetes and many people in his community don’t have the information to do it well. Just as Adriana said, a Promotor is an educator and education on how to treat and prevent diabetes gives people in his community hope.
Dr. Athena Philis-Tsimikas of the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute, a partner in this project, says that 14% of the population in Mexico under the age of 18 has diabetes and in 7 years, it is estimated that we will see a 25% increase in diabetes in Mexico. If we don’t treat it and don’t educate people, we will see an increase in the number of 40 year-olds who have heart attacks, experience kidney failure and amputation.
The impact of putting a 3G-enabled mobile devices and applications into the hands of health care workers at IMSS Clinic #27 will be studied over the next 10 months, and it is Qualcomm’s and my personal hope that we will find that Dulce Wireless Tijuana improves the ability for patients to live healthier lives in Tijuana’s marginalized communities and that the program can be adopted as a model for care across the region - and perhaps throughout the world.