Mobile phones help enhance decision-making, improving medical care for children in Burkina Faso

By Sansan HIEN, C4D Officer and Innovation Focal Point, UNICEF Burkina Faso

In some regions of Burkina Faso, community health workers (CHWS) are now using SMS reporting system to improve the integrated management of childhood illness (IMCI) as well as the availability of health, and nutrition supplies at a community level. This innovative system, supported by UNICEF Burkina Faso through funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, makes data reporting quicker and of quality, improving decision of the Ministry of Health which can now track children who are ill, to provide them with immediate treatment – and the availability of nutritional supplies, to prevent shortages.

Over the last 4 years, Sabou Celine has been working as a community health worker (CHW) in Libouré, a village of Yako health district at 100 km away from Ouagadougou the capital city. Like thousands of her peers, she treats or refers under-five children suffering from diarrhea, malaria, and acute breathing infections to health centers while requesting health, and nutrition supplies for children treatment at the community level.

Once a month, she manually reports her work and walks to a health center where she submits her report and shares how much additional medicine or supplies are need. For information that requires quick assessment, action, and decision, this process, unfortunately, takes a long time and requiring multiple steps. Now she is excited: mHealth or using a mobile phone to transmit health data is greatly facilitating our daily work. In the past, I had to run 14 km to get to the health center and give my report and command supply. Now, I can do it from my home.

A lady speaks to a man holding a notebook and a mobile phone.
© UNICEF/Burkina Faso/TarpilgaDr Anne Vincent, UNICEF Burkina Faso Representative, discussing the use of mobile phone in collecting real-time health data in Health center of sector 4 in Yako.

mHealth is a mobile application developed on RapidPro and connected to the national information system. This platform allowed CHWs to send and receive SMS through their mobile and then provide real-time information to improve their work, monitor supply, and ensure quality of reporting. “mHealth is a real opportunity to ensure the quality and availability of real-time data on medical care for children and the monitoring of supply stocks within the integrated management of childhood illness.” said Dr Anne Vincent, UNICEF Representative.

The mHealth project is implemented to improve the work of CHWs and help significantly reduce newborn and infant mortality.

Dominique Ouédraogo, the chief of health center of sector 4 in Yako, has real-time access to data from 14 community workers at 7 villages via his mobile phone Through the mHealth application, he can follow up on the work of CHWs real-time, receive timely information on children treated and those who are referred to his health center. Additionally, he’ll receive information on the amount supply stock available while preparing medicines and other products which were requested by community workers. At a district level, an internet connection gives real-time access to data of all the district health centers and the application is connected to the national health information system.

Launch in two health districts of Yako and Gourcy in the northern region, this mobile phone based application is improving decision making at local, district and central level regarding access to services. In particular, addressing issues such as the lack of available, quality data on case management and the frequent shortage of health/nutrition supply. About 104,000 children under-five of the two districts will benefit from the innovation used by 1,700 health workers. In 2017, the project aims to cover all 6 districts of the region with funding from the Global Funds and scale this initiative across the country under the ownership of the Government.

Mr. Dominique Ouédraogo, Head nurse, explain how it is for him to follow all the community health workers of village under cover area and make quicker decisions. ©Tarpilga, UNICEF Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, several strategies have been developed to improve the health and safety of children including the integrated management of childhood illnesses in the community with community agents as key actors. The mHealth project is part of this structure.

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