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Mobile tech enables family planning data access
  • Mobile tech enables family planning data access

Copyright: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos

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  • Researchers use mobile phones to collect household and health facility data

  • They results are turned into graphs and tables quicker than traditional surveys

  • The project could help policymakers make real-time decisions, says an expert

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[NAIROBI] An innovative mobile technology is helping countries in Sub-Sahara Africa access vital data on family planning and reproductive health every six months.
 
Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020), which uses the mobile technology, provides information useful for reporting, planning, operational decisions and advocacy at the community, country and global levels.
 
The project is currently implemented in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa — Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Niger and Uganda — and two countries in Asia (India and Indonesia) through in-country partner universities and research organisations, with the aim of building local capacity.

“PMA2020 is making this data available every six months, which could change the game by enabling policymakers to make real-time decisions.”

Selamawit Desta, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

 
PMA2020 is a US$40 million project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
 
Data on family planning are usually available every five years through countries’ demographic and health surveys.
 
“PMA2020 is making this data available every six months, which could change the game by enabling policymakers to make real-time decisions,” said Selamawit Desta, program officer of PMA2020 at Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health located at the US-based Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, during the meeting in Kenya on 27 June.
 
The meeting involving the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations Population Fund and the Kenya government aimed to assess the country’s progress in addressing family planning issues.
 
“We are hopeful that we can attract investments that will allow the data collection platforms to continue to the year 2020 and beyond,” Desta added.
 
Peter Gichangi, director of science and research at International Centre for Reproductive Health Kenya, the PMA2020 implementing partner in Kenya, says that a network of resident enumerators use mobile phones to collect data at in  households and health facilities, and transfer the data to a central server.
 
“The data is then validated, aggregated and prepared into tables and graphs, making results more quickly available to stakeholders as compared to a paper-and-pencil survey,” Gichangi adds, noting that it takes two to four weeks to create the accessible results.
 
Kigen Bartilol, head of Reproductive and Maternal Health Unit of Kenya’s Ministry of Health, says that his outfit is closely working with the PMA2020 and will integrate the data into national monitoring and evaluation systems.
Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director and under-secretary-general of the United Nations, tells SciDev.Net that governments and all partners in reproductive health need to provide information and access to voluntary family planning to all people of reproductive age.
 
“These will enable both women and men to make informed decisions about their reproductive health and all individuals to protect themselves from infections,” Osotimehin adds.
 
 This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.
 
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