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Where is the evidence?


February 6, 2013 BY Mandy Sugrue

 

Evidence has been a long-term strategic priority for the mHealth Alliance, but right now it seems many people in the global health and development communities are refocusing on evidence and thinking about how to do a better job of measuring impact. At this time, when measurement is back in the spotlight, the Alliance is pleased to have two new reports on mobile health (mHealth) and evidence to contribute to the discussion. The first report, mHealth and MNCH: State of the Evidence, presents findings of a needs assessment and a gaps analysis  using mHealth for maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) as a case study, with the goal of ultimately encouraging further evidence research.

The second report,  Baseline Evaluation of the mHealth Ecosystem, provides information about the current level of adoption, implementation, funding and impact of mHealth in low and middle income countries; it also measures the impact of the mHealth Alliance on promoting mHealth in the global health ecosystem.
 
In the past two weeks, there has been a great deal of attention and news reports emphasizing the lack of evidence in the mHealth community. Most recently, the Bill Gates Annual Letter, which will likely play a significant part in setting the global health agenda in the coming years, highlights the need for measurement and evidence research to drive greater impact. Melinda Gates adds that “we can make dramatic progress in lowering maternal mortality — but we need better data, and more of it.” The estimated $50 Billion mHealth market is still nascent and admittedly suffers from a paucity of rigorous studies, which may be hindered by a slow turn-around rate.

However, the good news for the future of mHealth is that the evidence gaps of today represent the research opportunities of the future. The potential of mHealth is enormous, and the mHealth community is poised to take evidence for mHealth to a new level in the coming years. 

Leading-up to the launch of these publications, the Alliance held our inaugural mHealth Evidence workshop in Tanzania, which focused on challenges and solutions to drive better evaluations for mHealth in East Africa. We will continue this conversation with our Evidence Working Group and through events like the upcoming GETHealth Summit on February 6th and 7th, where mHealth Alliance executive director, Dr. Patricia Mechael, will speak on mHealth Tools and Point-of-Care Devices. This “measurement moment” makes the launch of these reports, and the Alliance’s focus on this issue, even more exciting and we look forward to continuing our push to drive greater impact through stronger evidence!

 

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