A sigh of relief as Kilifi Kids mHealth project kicks off

By Jonathan M Mativo, Field Project Manager –Medic Mobile, Kilifi Kenya

Barely a year after a successful fundraising campaign by Kilifi Kids in partnership with Rotary International and lead by the Rotary clubs of Vinings and Kilifi, lots of progress is starting to be made. Phase I has already been rolled out, much to the delight of those impacted. “Whoa! At least my manual tabulations are now gone” exclaimed Janet Muema, the Ministry of Health Information Officer, after a successful roll out of FrontlineSMS forms for data collection and reporting by Health facilities of Kilifi.

In 2011 Kilifi Kids began to work with Medic Mobile, an organization based in the USA (with a wealth of experience in implementing mHealth projects in the globe.) They join the list of partners helping to implementi Phases II and III of Kilifi Kids’ mHealth project. The chief strategist, Isaac Hoolman, believes that mHealth is the way of the future for community health systems in rural Kenya and many other places around the globe. As part of the new partnership Jonathan Mativo, a ICT4D specialist from Kilifi, Kenya, joins the Medic Mobile team as a Field Project Manager based in Kenya. “Its great working on technology based systems that change and touch the lives of people” Mativo commented.

Bustling through the MOH corridors on a Thursday morning in the end of August, a group of health officials from more than 20 health facilities in the Kilifi District of Kenya, stream into a packed board room. Hurriedly walking into the board room, whispers and sighs of relief can be heard and it is easy to see from their jolly faces That the pervasive sentiment is, “Use of SMS’s is the in-thing. It has made our work easier”. After a long agenda the Health Information officer gets to the discussion of mHealth, and use of SMS, to report on the “hard-to-fill” IDSR form. These health facilities are responsible for tracking incidence of several diseases, including Malaria, Diarrhea, Measles, Typhoid and Cholera. Every Tuesday report the number of cases detected in the facility during the previous week. This process has a number of steps and is very time consuming. The report requires over 200 characters to describe what has occurred during the prior week as well as over the previous 6 months, which are first transmitted via SMS It’s then transferred manually into a black log book. Further analysis is done to aggregate the data and get the summaries which are then transmitted to the provincial headquarters. Every Tuesday evening the Information officer is reduced to a data clerk, and sometimes this task spills over to the following day.

Phase I of Kilifi Kids’ mHealth project introduced a common reporting format for use with SMS’s. Its use makes it easier for the information officer to copy and paste data for further analysis.

So this is the reason for all the excitement! 30th August 2011 marked the turning point. FrontlineSMS forms work for the main test phone and facilities are now able to submit information on one form which is sent via SMS to a central server based in the information office. “You mean it would have been this easy?” commented the Health Information Records Officer. In just minutes the test data sent from nearby phones, leaving the officers speechless.

I hurriedly rush to report the success and prepare to make rounds to the rest of the facilities and let them know the great news!

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