Maternal and Infant Health Meet Smartphones

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When parents welcome a new baby, the family goes into picture overload, snapping first smiles, cute yawns and other must-have moments. Often those photos are taken on the fly with a cell phone. In India, CRS trains trusted health workers to use a cell phone app we developed to teach women how to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, so those cherished memories can happen.

Sunita Devi, right, shares information—via a CRS-developed mobile phone app—that will help Sanchita, pregnant with her fourth child, deliver a healthy baby. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS
Sunita Devi, right, shares information—via a CRS-developed mobile phone app—that will help Sanchita, pregnant with her fourth child, deliver a healthy baby. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS

One in 5 of the world's youngest children live in India. One in 4 children who die also are in India. In the rural district of Kaushambi, the newborn mortality rate is 84% higher and the maternal mortality rate 92% higher than the average in India. The cause is nearly always a lack of access to health care.

CRS is training and supporting community health workers. They interact regularly with mothers and other family members to detect illness and counsel people on health matters.

Sunita Devi is one of these community health workers. She is also a mother of 5. She married at age 14 and had her first child at 16. Although she is just learning to read and write, the CRS app helps her communicate appropriate and timely health information.

The app prompts health workers to communicate specific audio messages during each visit. It also records information about a woman’s pregnancy, nutrition and delivery. And the health workers watch for signs of illness among the families they counsel.

After a baby is delivered, the app continues to track the child’s development through his or her crucial first year of life. This keeps families connected to the health system and promotes timely care for women and newborns.

Sunita Devi, a mother of five, works with CRS to counsel other mothers about the needs of their developing babies—both inside the womb and in their first year after birth. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS
Sunita Devi, a mother of five, works with CRS to counsel other mothers about the needs of their developing babies—both inside the womb and in their first year after birth. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS

Community health workers like Sunita say the app helps them manage their workload as well, so they can focus on counseling families and communicating key health messages.

Although Sunita couldn't read or write before becoming a health worker, she now can type letters on her phone's keypad and is learning to write with a pen and paper. She bought a book with some of her earnings to practice reading. Her 13-year-old daughter is her teacher.

CRS hopes to expand this project beyond the Kaushambi district. You can help us expand the use of technologies like the one described here by joining our new faithACTS initiative.

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