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Pregnant women in Peru will improve their health via cell phones

In a ground-breaking effort to use cell phone technology to improve access to healthcare, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Cayetano Heredia University of Peru (UPCH) and Movistar have launched a pilot project that will benefit 5,000 low-income pregnant women in Callao, Peru.

The project, known as “Wawanet,” will use text messaging via mobile telephones to enhance the health of mothers and infants by enabling them to receive customized advice on nutrition and potential problems during pregnancy. In addition, the project, with support from the IDB’s Division of Science and Technology, aspires to integrate a system of clinical histories through mobile technology, seeking to improve information systems that serve mothers and infants.

The pilot program will take place in the province of Callao, initially benefiting 5,000 pregnant mothers in a community where UPCH has been working on maternal health projects since the beginning of 2009.

The project is headed by Dr. Walter H. Curioso, a physician and investigative professor at UPCH, and Dr. Patricia García, a physician and professor at the Faculty for Public Health in UPCH.

Curioso said that this project seeks to develop a solution to the problems of maternal mortality in Peru, emphasizing that an improvement in the health of mothers and infants would also contribute to Peru’s attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

Likewise, García pointed out that this is a valuable opportunity to create a strategic alliance between the IDB, and the health sector of Callao, the local government of Callao, and UPCH in order to promote health, education, science and technology.

“To deliver health services using cellular phones in a systematic manner is one of the challenges of the development of digital technology at the start of the twenty first century,” said Rafael Anta, specialist in the IDB’s Division of Science and Technology. Therefore, the project will include an impact study and a review of possible business models that could enable it to be scaled-up to the national level.

“Wawanet” is part of IDB’s program “Mobile Citizen” program of non-reimbursable technical assistance financed with resources from Government of Italy, with the objective of accelerating the development and implementation of services based on the use of mobile phones to foster social and economic access for the most marginalized individuals.

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