ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reducing the Access Gap?

Mobile Phones for Maternal Health in Rural Bihar

Health programmes that are using mobile phones to improve maternal health in rural India are examined. Presented by its promoters as a universal, accessible and “smart” empowering technology, how mobile devices transform gender inequalities on the ground is analysed. By using empirical data collected on a global mHealth programme deployed in Bihar, how mHealth devices negate the multifactorial dimension of gender and health inequalities is explained, and also how these devices can reinforce inequalities on the ground is examined.

In 2016, seven billion people were mobile phone users, thus propelling the mobile phone ahead of other information and communication technologies (ICTs). Whether it be mobile personal health records or confidential clinical data sent via text messaging, these devices are increasingly used to provide “better” health services in a context of reduced health expenditure and increased involvement of patients. Substantial research has been conducted on eHealth—health on the internet—in recent years, mainly regarding the nature and the value of health information on the web (Adams and Berg 2004), the redefinition of the roles of lay and expert in health, and the subsequent transformation of the patient–caregiver relationship (Henwood et al 2003). Yet, very little research has been conducted on the use of the mobile phone and wireless technology within health programmes, called mHealth or mobile health, and especially in the global South, or in development contexts. However, the impact of mobile technologies on healthcare in such contexts raises critical questions that become particularly acute in the context of increased access to mobile phones in India.

The recent multiplication of mHealth worldwide illustrates the overall trend towards the globalisation and technologisation of biomedicine. The widespread idea, that digital technologies improve the quality of care, reduce health disparities and optimise health systems, takes shape in a diverse set of technical devices: mHealth, telemedicine, big data, etc.

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Updated On : 21st Mar, 2018

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