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Mobile technologies mDiabetes for health development

Pat Robert  Larubi - 15/07/2014 11:58 CDT

Kampala, Kampala, Uganda

DAKAR, Senegal, July 14, 2014, Alcatel-Lucent in partnership with Senegalese government through the ministry health and social action has today launched a special m-Ramadan campaign that coordinated from the from the mDiabetes program, in Dakar on June 16, 2014.

According to a press release by Alcatel, the launched brings together different stakeholders in Senegal right from the Minister of Health and Social Action, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy and local partners to be part of the big event dubbed "mDiabetes" a program launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as part of the "Be Healthy, Be Mobile" initiative.

The mDiabetes project in Senegal is one of the larger mHealth projects Alcatel-Lucent is involved in aim at combating diabetes with an ambitious and innovative campaign based on mobile technology, designed to improve prevention by raising awareness among diabetic patients as well as training health professionals. Employing the use of SMS messages besides voice calls to achieve the campaign goals.

According to Dr Kleinebreil, Vice-President of the UNFM (Université Numérique Francophone Mondiale - a NGO specialized in using ICTs for education in Africa, Senegal is ready for this mDiabetes project which is in a way a natural extension of the eDiabetes program developed by UNFM. Since 2009, it has helped to establish strong ties of cooperation between France and Senegal around diabetes and new technologies,"
This project is a multiple partnership involving many major stakeholders such as  the Senegalese government (Ministry of Health and Ministry of Communication), ITU (International Telecommunications Union), the WHO (World Health Organization), ASSAD (Senegalese Association  for the Assistance and Support of Diabetes Patients), the African branch of the International Diabetes Federation, the NGO UNFM, the Marc Sankalé Diabetes Center, Alcatel-Lucent, Sonatel/Orange, BUPA (global international health insurance and services company), and Sanofi.

The Minister of Health and Social Action of Senegal, Dr. Awa Marie Coll Seck, announced during this ceremony that "Mobile phones offer potential that can be used for driving messages that promote health. Other mHealth projects around the globe have proven the effectiveness of using cell phones for messages about health".

In order to overcome illiteracy and to make the initiative more effective, the Minister of Health and Social Action is planning to create voice messages that offer advice to people with diabetes. This initiative, which is inaugurated around the fasting month of Ramadan, is the first stage of the project in Senegal, with a larger and wider-reaching initiative which will be launched in November 2014.

Within the framework of this partnership, Alcatel-Lucent will provide the Ministry of Health and their partners in Senegal with the MNC technological platform mBox as in-kind contribution to the project and will be responsible for coordinating the SaaS platform (software services) and SAP mobile services for the pilot application of "mDiabetes". This platform will enable mobile services like SMS messages or other applications for widely distributing messages to be used for raising awareness and providing training for people with diabetes who have been identified by the National Center for Combating Diabetes, as well as training health professionals via cellular phones. The aim is to help implement strategies for preventing and combating diabetes and non-communicable diseases. For the end user, i.e. the person suffering from diabetes, it is an opportunity to directly interact with health professionals for better prevention and management of their disease.

For several years, Alcatel-Lucent has been actively working to promote social innovation  in multi-stakeholder partnership mode  to support mHealth and mLearning programs for health,  which aim at providing better access to information on projects relating to health or training. These partnerships are built with companies from the private sector, governments, NGOs, international organizations and development banks, foundations and social entrepreneurs and are key to scaling mHealth

"We are convinced of the value of this project for improving the conditions for diabetes patients in Senegal and are genuinely delighted to be involved as a technological partner in contributing to the success of the mDiabetes project, which aims to improve prevention, raise awareness and combat diabetes and non-transmissible diseases in Senegal. This is an ambitious initiative which could ultimately be replicated in other countries in the fight against diabetes or any other disease," said Alpin Verlet, Managing Director of Alcatel-Lucent for West and Central Africa.

The aim of the project is to better implement the national program for combating non-transmissible diseases in Senegal and the technology will consolidate and reinforce initiatives from the public and private sectors that benefit the population - raising awareness of the danger of diabetes, and the consequences that it can have on patients and their families, the importance of diagnosing the disease as early as possible and ensuring medical monitoring. Sending SMS or voice messages will yield triple objective:

*          Educate and raise awareness among the population  and provide information on the disease to limit the occurrence of diabetes which is largely linked to lifestyle.

*          Appointment reminders, lifestyle and dietary advice, and the proper observation of treatment to limit risks of complication

*          And of course, train health professionals and implement tools for prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring, etc., which is essential, particularly in rural areas.

The WHO (World Health Organization) estimated that there will be 552 million diabetics in the world by 2030, 75% of whom will live in low-income countries and where diabetes will be the seventh cause of death in the world. The WHO also believes that mHealth could significantly contribute to slowing down the increase in people with diabetes, which is a life-threatening disease and one of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century.

The tremendous work done by WHO has attracted call from other African countries like Egypt showing great interest in the project. There are several Senegalese partners involve in the project want to replicate it  to other region that could save time and huge junks of money.  Alcatel-Lucent in the mDiabetes campaign through mobile technology and innovation could be an option to provide populations in developing nations better access to healthcare and education.  As a specialist in IP network technologies and ultra-broadband access solutions including Cloud technologies.

 Photo 1: Alpin Verlet, head of Alcatel-Lucent in West and Central Africa, and Dr. Awa Marie Coll Seck, Minister of Health and Social Action of Senegal