According to the United Nations, only half of pregnant women in developing regions receive the recommended minimum of four antenatal care visits. And, complications during pregnancy or childbirth are one of the leading causes of death for adolescent girls. However, most maternal deaths in developing countries could be prevented through adequate nutrition, proper health care, and the presence of a skilled birth attendant during delivery and emergency obstetric care.
Enter frontline health workers. Frontline health workers are often the first and only link to health care and preventative health services for millions of families in low- and middle-income countries. Unfortunately, there is a severe shortage of trained, frontline health workers to provide quality and timely health care services, particularly to pregnant women and newborns.
In 2012 Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ became a founding steering committee member of mPowering Frontline Health Workers (mPowering), a public-private partnership supported by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Together Wireless Reach, mPowering and other partners set-out to contribute to the elimination of preventable child and maternal deaths by accelerating the use of mobile technology to improve the skills and performance of frontline health workers.
Through these parameters we supported the creation of “ORB,” a first-of-its-kind comprehensive online library of resources to train health workers around the world. ORB is freely available and available now at www.health-orb.org. The site currently holds more than 200 resources covering family planning; antenatal care; labor and delivery; newborn care; child health; and nutrition. By our calculations ORB has the potential to support 100,000 frontline health workers by 2017.
On June 2, I attended the launch of this platform at the UN Foundation and spoke alongside ORB partners and supporters from USAID, mPowering Frontline Health Workers and Every Mother Counts. During his keynote, Assistant Administrator, Global Health Bureau, USAID, Ariel Pablos-Méndez said something that really resonated with me: "In order for mHealth solutions to work, we need mass adoption and understanding.”
With mobile-optimized content that is shared and accessed through wireless technologies like mobile, tablet and laptop browsers, I believe the ORB training platform will be able to create a ripple effect of knowledge and empowerment throughout the global development and frontline health worker communities. ORB is an excellent example of how mobile technologies can be a powerful force for social good.
It is my sincere hope that international aid organizations increasingly access this useful platform as part of their training programs. I look forward to watching ORB flourish and become the ‘go to’ online resource for mobile health care content.