A recent m-health initiative (an sms-based health service) taken by the government of the state of Bihar, the first of its kind in India, is expected to drastically improve immunization coverage by reaching out to 2.5 to 3 crore children.
A senior official in the health department explains the initiative:
Under the initiative, we would prepare a database of all people whose children fall in the age group of 0-6 years. We would also prepare the list of the due dates for their children to get DPT and OPV doses. We would start sending them text messages days in advance reminding them to visit the nearest health centre with their children. As almost 80 per cent of the people in Bihar and even rural areas have access to cellphones now, we hope this would ensure that most of them get the information and respond. Even if a fraction of them come over to the health centres following the initiative, it would be a big achievement.
While lack of reminders for due dates is one factor that results in low immunization coverage, there are many other challenge areas, which if addressed effectively can radically improve immunization coverage.
Recently, we completed a study â€œ34 ways to save lives in rural Indiaâ€ for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which provides an in-depth understanding of these challenges, supported by contextual insights from field, along with specifications of mobile and other product and service solutions. The design solutions illustrated in the book not only address challenges in the vaccine delivery mechanism, but also cater to the related services within the broader ecology of maternal and child healthcare. Each solution is assessed for its impact and value along with illuminating the path to realization to provide vital cues for implementation.
We hope our solutions can continue to provide inspiration for innovation efforts of the State and private healthcare organizations in the years to come.