UNICEF, WHO, Johns Hopkins University and frog publish mHealth framework in Journal of Global Health: Science and Practice.

This ‘Technical Concept’ provides a new framework lays out 12 common mHealth applications used as health systems strengthening innovations across the continuum of care.

A SHARED FRAMEWORK TO EXPLAIN MHEALTH INNOVATIONS
The absence of a shared language and approach to describe mHealth interventions will continue to hinder efforts to identify, catalog, and synthesize evidence across this complex landscape. The lack of a common framework also makes it hard to explain mHealth innovations to mainstream health-sector stakeholders.

mHealth researchers and implementers at the World Health Organization (WHO), the Johns Hopkins University Global mHealth Initiative, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and frog Design have jointly developed the ‘‘mHealth and ICT Framework’’ to describe mHealth innovations in the reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health (RMNCH) field, in which mobile health technologies have been broadly implemented over the last decade across the developing world.

The framework builds on prior efforts to describe types and uses of mHealth generally,
such as in the WHO global survey on eHealth2 and in the mHealth Alliance’s typology for mHealth services in the maternal and newborn health field. These previous efforts, however, have focused more explicitly on the type of actor (client, provider, or health system) and location of the mHealth activity (community, facility, or health information system). Some of these descriptions provide details about the use of specific mobile functions (such as toll-free help lines) to accomplish particular health goals, although other functions could have been used to accomplish the same goals and, over time, the functions described could be superseded by newer technologies. Furthermore, their classification approaches have not provided stakeholders with the tools to enable them to understand the diverse ways in which specific mobile functions could be employed for a particular health purpose.

Our framework is constructed around standard health system goals and places intended users and beneficiaries in central focus, against the context of the proposed mHealth service package. By describing a specific mHealth strategy or approach, the framework visually depicts the when, for whom, what is being done to alleviate which constraints, and the how of the strategy.

The framework comprises 2 key components:

  1. A place to depict the specifics of the mHealth intervention, described as one or more common mHealth or information and communications technology (ICT) applications used to target specific health system challenges or constraints within specific areas of the RMNCH continuum of care.

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2. A visual depiction of mHealth implementation through the concept of ‘‘touch points,’’ or points of contact, which describe the specific mHealth interactions across health system actors (for example, clients, providers), locations (such as clinics or hospitals), and timings of interactions and data exchange.

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