During the United Nations General Assembly last week, we heard a lot about mobile technology and its ability to promote positive change in communities around the world. During the Social Good Summit, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation Kathy Calvin said, “Information is power, and technology is the way to empower women.” Calvin advocates that when women are connected, healthy, and empowered, the benefits extend beyond their own lives: Families are healthier and better off economically – and so are their countries and the world.
This very idea has become a priority for the Foundation. In 2011, the Foundation and the mHealth Alliance, in collaboration with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), started the Innovation Working Group Catalytic Grant Program (IWG) to support innovative mobile projects that aim to improve women’s and children’s health.
The IWG grant program has strategically invested in 26 projects in 14 low- and middle-income countries through financial and technical support. Each carefully vetted grantee project was chosen based on their innovative mobile health (mHealth) solutions to improve maternal, newborn, and child health and support progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4, 5, and 6, which set targets for reducing child mortality, improving maternal mortality, and fighting diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
IWG grantee projects like Wired Mothers are prime examples of how strategic investments in mobile technology solutions can strengthen maternal health and help empower girls and women globally. The project links pregnant women to primary care facilities through the use of mobile phones and SMS technology, sending antenatal care visit reminders and providing call-in assistance when needed. This project resulted in more women attending antenatal care late in pregnancy and more women with antepartum complications identified and referred – in short, improved quality for women during their most critical time.
Originally hosted by the mHealth Alliance, the IWG catalytic grant program has recently transitioned to the Foundation with continued support from the World Health Organization and Norad. This transfer marks a larger commitment by the Foundation of investing in mobile technology and innovation to support global health and development. The IWG Catalytic Grant Program is one of a handful of mobile innovation initiatives (that also include the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action and ICT for Saving One Million Lives), which support technological solutions to strengthen health and development.
mHealth and eHealth (electronic health) have forged a new path for women to educate themselves, to achieve independence in their health choices, and to live healthier lives. Looking forward, we will be sharing stories from the IWG grant program that will highlight how this work is contributing to the larger goal of increasing health access for all.
Follow #IWGImpact on Twitter for updates on the IWG Catalytic Grant Program and from the individual grantee projects.