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Skoll Foundation Awardees Barefoot College and Medic Mobile work together to improve maternal health in India

Barefoot

April 07, 2017

Posted by: Jill Shah

Post authored by Dr. Monalisa Padhee and Shreya Bhatt. Above, community health worker Uma Kanwar (first from the right) conducting a monthly health meeting with the women of Surya-Kalyanipura village, Rajasthan.

We are excited to announce a new partnership between Barefoot College and Medic Mobile. Both Barefoot College and Medic Mobile have driven large-scale change to help solve some of the world’s most pressing problems around access and quality of basic services in last-mile settings. Through a unique partnership within the Skoll Foundation’s global network of awardees, Barefoot College and Medic Mobile are teaming up to leverage low-cost mobile technology to reduce maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity in India.

Barefoot College is a not-for-profit, grassroots, social enterprise, that has been providing basic services and solutions to the challenges facing rural poor communities for more than 40 years.  While valuing and respecting the knowledge and wisdom these communities already possess, the organization aims at making them self-sufficient and sustainable. Barefoot College has been working in the area of health since 1973, providing basic health services to underserved and low-income rural families. We believe prevention is better than cure and have been actively involved in creating health awareness, especially on women’s health. The Barefoot reach extends to over 50 villages in rural Rajasthan, and is facilitated through a team of Barefoot doctors, health workers, and midwives. One of the important programs at Barefoot College in the area of health is providing antenatal care to the most marginalized communities, adopting a unique approach of empowering the communities through proper training and monitoring.  

Medic Mobile’s mission is to use mobile technology to create connected and coordinated health systems that save lives. Operating as a nonprofit technology company, Medic Mobile develops scalable and open-source tools that can be adapted for specific uses, backed by evidence. Health workers currently use Medic Mobile to register every pregnancy, immunize infants against illnesses, track disease outbreaks faster, keep stock of essential medicines, and communicate about emergencies. The Medic Mobile platform is built for the last mile of healthcare, reaching over 14,000 community health workers through partner organizations in over 23 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Miles away, as the searing mid-day heat of Rajasthan’s desert state beats down on Surya- Kalyanipura village, health worker Uma Kanwar walks into the large verandah outside the house of Bhanwari Devi, the community’s traditional birth attendant or Daima. Within minutes, they are surrounded by women from the community, and a monthly health meeting and routine antenatal check-up is soon underway.

Daima Bhanwari Devi belongs to Surya-Kalyanipura, and has been chosen by her village to receive training from Barefoot College as a pregnancy and childbirth care provider, while Uma has been trained to coordinate with Daima to register pregnancies, conduct basic diagnostic tests and maintain reports for timely follow-up. Together, they represent the first point of care available to women in this and neighbouring villages for miles.

Over the years, with the support of Barefoot College, Uma and Daima Bhanwari have not only disseminated relevant education on healthcare in their communities, but also closely monitored pregnancies, identifying danger signs, providing prompt referrals and ensuring healthy and safe deliveries for countless women. As with most last-mile community health programs, however, Uma faces several challenges in coordinating care for the women and families of the five villages in her field area, including the time-consuming nature of maintaining detailed paper records, communication gaps in between monthly team meetings, and delays in patient and community-level data reaching the Barefoot’s program team. 

Barefootmobile

Above: Barefoot College community health workers with their mobile devices after a Medic Mobile training session.

Medic Mobile’s Standard ANC platform will help to address these challenges and support Barefoot College’s health teams to better communicate and coordinate care for pregnancies. As part of our partnership, Barefoot College community health workers will use their low-cost basic phones and smartphones along with simple SMS to register pregnancies, receive automated reminders about upcoming ANC visits, report danger signs, and coordinate with government Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) to ensure deliveries in facilities. Program staff at the Barefoot campus will use the web application to report on ANC visits or deliveries, message individual community health workers to better coordinate care, and view real-time program activity and impact.

As Barefoot College scales its ANC program, Medic Mobile’s platform will help to enhance its efficiency and impact on maternal health outcomes so that every woman receives the care she deserves during her pregnancy. We are excited to find in each other co-innovators who strive for impact in the most challenging and low-resource settings, and we look forward to our important work together!

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