Mobile Device Enabled Women's Group
Create Women's Groups as a health service platform to collectively save money, share experiences and build social capital. Use a specially designed mobile device with simple applications giving access to preloaded health-related audio and video content, a simple finance tool, and communication with the hospital, midwives, and a call-in health radio program.
The Women's Group
Women’s Groups can be formed with groups of 5-10 neighbors at reproductive age between late teenagers to early 40s who meet on a regular basis. It intends to create an environment that fosters mutual help. This would require some facilitation in the beginning to start, elect their own leader and to learn how to use the mobile device as an interaction and learning tool. Each Women’s Group is encouraged to use the mobile device to facilitate their activities.
The Mobile Device
This specially designed mobile device has three major roles in this concept.
First it allows free call-in and out to local midwives and a nearby ambulance. When the Women’s Group meets, a midwife can call and talk about health related concerns. In case of emergency, it is connected to a nearby ambulance (if it exists), otherwise to any car that is contracted to play a role as ambulance.
The second function is a preloaded audio library that women can sit together and watch. This would replace conventional printed information materials and provide knowledge that women are interested to know using audio and visual means. Contents can easily be updated using an SD memory card.
The device could have simple applications as well, such as a tool to facilitate managing collective finances.
Finally, the device can be used to listen to and call-in to a weekly radio talk show (see next section).
Radio Talk Show
Create a radio program like a “Car Talk” for bodily health instead of the health of your car. It should be a fun, weekly radio talk show that women can listen to together with an amusing host who is a trained health care professional. The show should air at a time of day when women are commonly taking a break. They can use the mobile device for free to Even if there is a community health volunteer in each village, sometimes because of personal relationships with volunteers, some poor women ended up not receiving any information or support in getting transportation or available subsidies. It is important that every women in the community engages in a group with their neighboring women to facilitate sa ocial capital generating process. This should not just be for when they are pregnant but throughout their reproductive life. This way, they can support others while they are not pregnant and they can receive other’s support when they are pregnant.
Women will pay in to a group savings pool of money on a regular basis. When they need money (for food, transportation, cost of ante-natal care, delivery, post-natal care, etc.) they can borrow from the group savings and repay at a very minimal interest like 2-3%. Women can also use the mobile device to manage their funds and potentially to share those financial resources with other local women's groups.
In discussion with many poor women in rural Cambodia, I learned these problems are critical to maternal health:
1) lack of strong social relationships. This leads to a lack of access to information about available services and financial assistances. It also means people do not support each other for accompanying, helping with means of transportation, calling midwives to come etc.
2) lack of money, not just to pay for fees but also to buy food to maintain good health during pregnancy. I met many women who borrowed money on 10% interest rate from private money lenders to buy food and pay for expenses. Many women were in debt for a very long time after their delivery.
3) lack of communication with midwives leads to poor trust relationship between pregnant women and midwives and makes them hesitant to ask for help when they need it.
Even if there is a community health volunteer in each village, sometimes because of personal relationships with volunteers, some poor women ended up not receiving any information or support in getting transportation or available subsidies. It is important that every women in the community engages in a group with their neighboring women to facilitate sa ocial capital generating process. This should not just be for when they are pregnant but throughout their reproductive life. This way, they can support others while they are not pregnant and they can receive other’s support when they are pregnant.
Taking this understanding further, this concept is inspired by:
- Micro Health Insurance by Sarah Fathallah
- Grameen Moms Support Group by Jessica Vechakul,
- Saving for Change in Cambodia by Oxfam
- "Mom Radio" from IDEO London
- Portable Maternal Health Video Library by Avi Solomon
What is the minimum level of mobile technology needed for this concept?
“Japanese electric dictionary meets iPad”
The Mobile Device looks like:
-a simple technology that can be used by people with minimal experience with technology
-big screen where women can easily view photos and videos
-a large memory capacity to store preloaded content / SD memory card contain preloaded content.
-easy voice message rather than text messages to make it work in low literacy setting.
-a radio receiver function to listen to Mom Radio and call in
-ability to communicate between villagers and the midwives and hospital for health care related communication only
-robust, rugged and reliable so it is unlikely to break
-cheap so it is unlikely to be stolen
-integrated solar charger for low or no energy supply contexts
This service concept and hardware solution could be adapted to address other health and social issues, like chronic diseases in both developing or developed contexts- particularly uneducated, elderly, or disempowered minority populations.
How could this work in a low-literacy context?
The mobile device contains a preloaded audio-visual library that provides information to women. The mobile devices connect the group, midwives, and ambulance on a free call. There won’t be any complicated functions other than push buttons and calling functionality. All features will be based on audio, visual and video content not text (eg, no SMS).
Which partners could help realise and deliver this solution?