By: Adam Khan, MS3 & Timothy Aungst, PharmD

With the approach of the mHealth summit in Washington D.C. in just a few weeks, many of us are getting excited about the shiny new toys and technology emerging in the healthcare space.

However, in other parts of the world, particularly Subsaharan Africa, headway into the mHealth space is still being made with some good, old-fashioned technology.

Just last week, Dr. Donan Mmbando, the Director of Preventive Services at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Tanzania, led a four-day conference on the ‘Use of Mobile Technologies for Family Planning and Reproductive Health.’

The conference was organized by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), one of our largest government agencies responsible for administering foreign civilian aid. The conference highlighted a recently successful initiative by the agency: a series of text messages sent to users’ cell phones about family planning methods in Kenya.

According to a study on the initiative, published in the journal Contraception, the use of this messaging system was effective in reaching out to Africans in rural settings without access to community-based contraceptive programs. Based on survey results, a large number of users responded to the texts and a variety of changes in family planning use (such as IUDs and condoms) and were impacted by the information sent over text.

The initiative, termed Mobile for Reproductive Health (m4RH, for short) provides a demonstration of its text message system on the organization’s website.

The purpose of the conference was to encourage similar initiatives by other African countries in attendance. As stressed by Scott Radloff, USAID Director of the of Office of Population and Reproductive Health, using technology to convey healthcare information is not limited to just affluent countries, it can “reach even the less educated… in difficult areas where [they] cannot be easily reached.”

So, keep in mind even these simple strides being made in mHealth as the latest reports about the shiniest, coolest new devices stream in from the summit in Washington D.C. in a few weeks.