Recently I was in New York City on a sweltering July day, and had a hankering for frozen yogurt. On my smart phone, I pulled up Google Maps and typed in “PinkBerry”. Instantly, a map of the neighborhood I was in was pulled up with pushpins showing where the chain’s nearest locations were. The pins were further supported by a database with the store’s address, phone number, and hours of operation. The power and convenience of the Internet is a given in the lives of many: looking for a sushi place that uses brown rice? A retail store that has a kids’ department? A 24 hour pharmacy? Simply ‘Google it’, and the information is instantly provided.
Maternova asks: “What if patients and providers in developing countries could ask this sort of information about local clinics, greatly reducing the deadly delays that make maternal death a stark reality?” Questions like: Where is the closest hospital with a blood bank? Where is the closest hospital with the capacity to perform C-sections? Maternova is working with the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (www.arhp.org) and the Comite Promotor una Maternidad Sin Regreso (the Committee for Safe Motherhood) http://www.maternidadsinriesgos.org.mx/ in Chiapas, Mexico to make that information available to providers and patients seeking maternal or neonatal care. The project is generously funded by the MacArthur Foundation (www.macfound.org)
Our website is a custom-made site that features a graphically clear and visually appealing map, supported by a robust, custom-made database of information about the quality of care and services available at each government-approved clinic. Best of all, the information will be available via SMS. We are working with an SMS provider to make the database and corresponding map ‘queriable’ by text message. Cell phone penetration rates in Mexico are estimated at 75% of the population; even more people are ‘covered’ by a cell phone (family member, community health worker, neighbor). Important, life saving information will be available to anyone with access to a mobile phone that has SMS capability.
By mapping the existing 43 clinics in Chiapas, Mexico and superimposing various levels of data (maternal deaths, C-sections performed) on top of the map, informed decisions can be made by providers, philanthropists and government agencies about where patients can get the most appropriate care and where additional resources are needed to make maternity a safe state of wellness for all women in Chiapas.
Over the next weeks, we’ll be posting more about the theoretical and practical motivations behind this project, the progress of our initiative, and reporting on the successes and challenges of our pilot project. We encourage feedback and welcome inquiries about the project!
by Emily Fallon