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Alumni Dispatches: Patricia Mechael

Alumni Dispatches: Patricia Mechael

Patricia Mechael

PhD, MHS '98

Using Mobile Phones to Reduce Maternal Mortality

In 2002, I was inspired to pursue a doctoral degree exploring health-related uses of mobile phones in developing countries by an experience I had in 1999 in Southern Sudan. Two two-way radios strategically placed in a health center and hospital and a project vehicle were used to save a woman's life and the lives of her twin babies during an obstetric emergency. While they were able to access an emergency caesarian, they all died several days later due to poor quality of care in the hospital. In my research primarily focusing on Minia, Egypt, it was further illustrated that each component of the technology and health network must be in place to reap maximum benefit.

The number of global mobile phone subscribers at the close of 2007 was estimated at 3.5 billion of an estimated global population of 6.6 billion. The increasing uptake of mobile phones in developing countries presents a strategic opportunity for the public health community to maximize the benefits of improved telecommunications in achieving health-related objectives.

Currently, I am managing the strategic integration of mobile phones to achieve the MDGs for health in ten countries in Africa as part of a partnership with Ericsson to leverage mobile telephony within the Millennium Villages Project at the Earth Institute at Columbia University. In its aims to reduce maternal mortality and increase facility-based deliveries, mobile phones and an emergency toll-free number are being used in conjunction with emergency transport and other health interventions to improve access to and coordination of emergency obstetric care and other critical sexual and reproductive and general health services.

Patricia Mechael has been actively involved in the field of International Health as a project manager and technical advisor for over 12 years, with field experience in over 20 countries, with a special focus on Africa. She has worked on HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and international health with a broad range of organizations, including CARE, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, and the World Health Organization.

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