Why is mapping maternal health clinics an innovation? Why is it so central to what Maternova is doing? And what is unique about the way we're doing it?
Skilled health professionals are the key to improving maternal health. Even if a mother is delivering at home, if an emergency occurs, referral to the appropriate level of care is the factor that will save (or sacrifice) her life. Once health workers are trained--they are deployed, often to a single location-- a clinic or hospital or in the case of some midwives, a private single room out of their homes. Who knows where these facilities are? How do we choose or optimize the placement of staff and clinics in the areas with highest populations and greatest need? In some settings--in some countries, provinces and districts, there is not a rapid, efficient way to determine where these clinics and facilities are. Even for NGOs and major donor-funded projects working in the field, knowledge about exactly who else is working where is limited.
We want to change the status quo by crowdsourcing maps of maternal health clinics.
In a June 2006 article in _Wired_ , Jeff Howe writes that:
>Technological advances in everything from product design software to digital video cameras are breaking down the cost barriers that once separated amateurs from professionals. Hobbyists, part-timers, and dabblers suddenly have a market for their efforts, as smart companies in industries as disparate as pharmaceuticals and television discover ways to tap the latent talent of the crowd. The labor isn't always free, but it costs a lot less than paying traditional employees. It's not outsourcing; it's crowdsourcing.
On his blog he defines [crowdsourcing](http://www.crowdsourcing.com) as: the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.
There are thousands and thousands of public health students, volunteer physicians, professional development officials, and nurses and midwives connected by cell phone who could be part of a crowdsourced effort to map clinics and facilities. These are not professional geographers, but armed with an address or a latitude and longitude or even a village name, they could help plot out the location and capacity of tens of thousands of facilities around the glob. What would cost a single agency like the WHO or USAID hundreds of thousands of dollars may in fact be more efficiently and ultimately achievable through a crowdsourced map.
Stay tuned to this 'channel' for updates on maternal health mapping.