Mobile tech helps fight malaria in Tanzania

byMelina Koutsis
Apr 26, 2011 in Specialized Topics

About half the world's population risks catching malaria, which infects 225 million people every year and kills approximately 780,000. The burden of malaria is heaviest in sub-Saharan Africa where people are unable to get treatment in time.

In 2009, the Tanzanian Ministry of Health, Vodafone and Novartis partnered to develop a project using mobile phone messaging and mapping technology to track stocks for anti-malarial medicines at public health facilities weekly.

The goal was to avoid running out of stock and increase access to medicine. Dubbed “SMS for Life,” this pilot program extended to three districts in Tanzania and reached around 888,000 people. Within the first few weeks of the project, the number of stock-outs dropped 75 percent.

To mark this year’s World Malaria Day on April 25th, these organizations expanded their program to cover 131 districts in Tanzania to reach about 40 million people.

Each week, health care staffers receive an automated SMS message reminding them to check stocks of anti-malarial medicines. Their reply goes to a central database system and health facilities with low stock levels are promptly restocked.

SMS for Life is currently a finalist in the 2011 Awards for Business Action on Health. Winners will be announced on June 1st, 2011.

Here are some useful resources to learn more about malaria:

The National Malaria Control Centre (NMCC) The NMCC, a department under the directorate of Public Health and Research of the Ministry of Health in Zambia, provides technical support and coordination for a wide range of partners including research and training institutes and Provincial and District Health Offices.

Malaria Journal Malaria Journal is a Malaria Journal is an Open Access, peer-reviewed, online journal monitored by Thomson Reuters (ISI), MEDLINE and PubMed. It is aimed at the scientific community interested in malaria in the broadest sense.

Roll Back Malaria The RBM Partnership is the global framework to implement coordinated action against malaria. Its website contains useful facts, links, newsletters and tools.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control CDC.gov provides users with credible, reliable health information on data and statistics, diseases and conditions, emergencies, disasters, environmental health, healthy living. You can also access their publications, podcasts and tools.