Sydney University researchers use mobile phone technology to tackle disease, malnutrition in India
Researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia, working with Indian partners, are using mobile phone technology to tackle disease and malnutrition in remote parts of India.
Data from the World Bank indicates that 63 out of every 1,000 Indian children die before reaching the age of five, with undernourishment taking a heavy toll.
"We often forget how easily babies die," Anne Marie Thow, a health policy specialist from the University of Sydney, said.
Together with Michael Dibley from the Sydney School of Public Health, she is piloting a project through the South Asian Infant Feeding Network to tackle child hunger in India.
Building on the pioneering efforts of Professor Archana Patel from the Lata Medical Research Foundation and the Indira Gandhi Medical College, the scheme encourages better infant feeding practices by using mobile phones to provide information and counselling to rural families.
A midwife checks up on new and expectant mothers by ringing them each week, and as the infant grows women are sent customised text messages each day.
Work is being conducted in the eastern part of Maharashtra State around Nagpur.
"Counselling is essential for engaging with hard-to-reach communities. Our program aims to bring new and diverse sources of information to women who may be in closed social networks," Associate Professor Dibley said.
In villages where a single mobile phone is typically shared by a family, he hopes that information about correct feeding practices will be disseminated through the whole family.
"There are no short cuts to solving the problem of undernutrition amongst children. We need interventions that can be delivered on a large scale to make a difference," he added.