Government of India and BBC Media Action launch free mobile health education to millions of women

New Delhi, 15 January 2016

Today the Government of India launched a nation-wide mobile health program designed by BBC Media Action to train one million community health workers and help nearly 10 million new and expecting mothers make healthier choices and lead longer, healthier lives.

Mobile Academy is designed to refresh community health workers’ knowledge of simple steps families can take to improve the health of mothers and babies, and to improve their ability to communicate these steps clearly to mothers and their families. The objective is to enable the nation’s nearly one million health workers to more effectively persuade families to lead healthier lives.

“BBC Media Action’s partnership with the government makes it possible for our mHealth services Kilkari and Mobile Academy to touch millions of lives, and have significant impact at an unprecedented scale.  In a country where nearly a billion people have access to mobile phones, the potential to save lives through insightful, innovative communication marks a paradigm shift.”  Priyanka Dutt, Country Director, BBC Media Action India

Kilkari (a baby’s gurgle) delivers free, weekly, time-appropriate audio messages about pregnancy, child birth, and childcare directly to families’ mobile phones from the second trimester of pregnancy until the child is one year old.

Kilkari compliments Mobile Academy by reinforcing health workers’ counselling of families; communicating directly with new and expecting mothers and their families to increase the uptake of healthier behaviors.

Kilkari is now making calls to 850,000 families in six states and will rapidly scale to reach 9.5 million new and expecting mothers a year. Mobile Academy is now accessible to 150,000 health workers across four states and will scale to reach nearly a million health workers.

The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, commenting on the launch, said: “Government of India has launched the Digital India programme in order to transform the entire ecosystem of public services through the use of Information Technology. We need to transform healthcare by empowering people to become active healthcare citizens with choice but most powerfully with information and to take more responsibility over their own health and life choices. I am confident that these services will bring us a step closer to the people who need our services the most.”

The services, designed and developed by BBC Media Action in the state of Bihar with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and powered by MOTECH, a robust yet simple-to-use mobile health (mHealth) technology developed by the Grameen Foundation, are now being rolled out nationally by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with funding from the Government of India, the Gates Foundation, USAID, and the Barr Foundation.

Speaking at the launch, Mr. Rahul Mullick, ICT lead for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in India, said: “The national scale up of mHealth services is a great step towards leveraging India’s increasing mobile penetration to make healthcare services accessible to everyone across India. We at the foundation believe technology can offer compelling solutions in solving public health challenges and are committed to supporting the government in its ambitious agenda of prioritising equitable access to public health services.”

USAID provides funding for public-private partnerships like this to support government initiatives and to harness the power of modern technology to educate the public to adopt healthy behaviors. These initiatives help lower costs while reaching millions more families.