Can mobile phones help eliminate pediatric AIDS? "No," says Josh Nesbit, CEO of Medic Mobile, "not on its own." But it turns out the people who have those mobile devices, Nesbit says, definitely can.
At this year's Social Good Summit, Nesbit joined Anu Gupta, Director of Corporate Contributions of Johnson & Johnson, and Robert Fabricant of Frog Design, a company that tries to bring marketing to "meaningful products and services," in a conversation about the needed connection between tech and healthcare.
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Nesbit and Fabricant have been working on initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa and India, where they say every 90 seconds a child is born with HIV. Their ultimate goal is to find new ways to help stem the spread of AIDS in those regions.
What they found was that there is something growing faster than AIDS: cellphone, so they're leveraging that vast network to bring the care needed to every corner of the world that mobile phones have already landed.
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"A billion people will never see a doctor in their lives, but 90% of the world's population is covered by mobile," said Nesbit. "50% of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa own phones."
Medic Mobile has already seen dramatic progress with their initiatives. In India, simple text message alerts sent by Nesbit's team reminding care givers to bring children in for vaccination appointments are working. Vaccination coverage has jumped from 60% to 99%, he said.
"It's the intersection of information, communication and human behavior that we are trying to figure out," said Nesbit.
The key to integrating mobile into the healthcare sector, though, is not necessarily about advancing technology, but merging it with devices common to the areas. Nesbit said his organization is doing significant research and development in putting "really complex apps" into simple $8 phones that are already being shipped to developing countries. Similarly, they make sure that phones are using universal SIM cards so tech doesn't get in the way of health, but strengthens it.
Nesbit recalled an anecdote from a time in Africa that validated his belief in the proliferation of mobile in the region.
"While traveling through Africa sometimes it took me six hours to get from one village to the next, but the entire time there was six bars of service," he said.
The future of healthcare could be about turning those six bars of service into six saved lives. Do you see mobile playing a huge part of healthcare in the years to come? Tell us how so in the comments below.
This story originally published on Mashable here.
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