World Health Organization
Every morning, mother of six Mariama rises early to sell fish in her local market in Senegal. For the past decade, she has lived with diabetes, and takes insulin regularly. But her medication is not the only tool she relies on to look after her health – her mobile phone plays a critical part of her diabetes control regimen.
Thanks to Senegal’s mDiabetes programme during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan this year, Mariama has found it easier to cope with the condition and have the energy needed to work and care for her family. “These messages really help me manage my condition,” she says. They have also allowed her family to actively engage in her care.
“Every day I would ask my son to check if there was a new message,” Mariama adds. “He would help me understand what I needed to do to stay healthy and control my diabetes, and we would then talk about it together.”
Information and communications technology, or ICTs, especially the mobile phone, are changing expectations around access to health information. Mobile phones can support diabetes prevention by providing simple tips on good management or prevention, usually around diet, exercise and checking for signs of complications such as diabetic foot complications.
Since 2013, WHO has been working with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to help countries like Senegal introduce large-scale mDiabetes services using mobile phones. The joint initiative, Be He@lthy, Be Mobile, works to design, deploy and scale up prevention and management services for diabetes and a number of other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).
Diabetes was one of Be He@lthy, Be Mobile‘s first major programmes. The initiative has created a global handbook to help countries introduce large-scale services, including content for the SMS messages and support for other areas such as technology, promotion and evaluation.
Using SMS to deliver advice to patients speeds up the diffusion of information to help people manage or prevent the disease. This reduces prevalence and treatment costs, and helps patients live longer, healthier lives.