The First HIFA SMART Goal: Mobile Healthcare Information For All

“Thousands of lives could be saved every day if all mobile phones had basic healthcare knowledge, including and especially first aid, maternal, and child health information for citizens” (HIFA). The mHIFA & Citizens Working Group is leading the HIFA community in achieving Mobile Healthcare Information For All:

“By 2017 at least one mobile network operator or mobile handset manufacturer, in at least one low- or middle-income country, will provide access to essential health information for direct use by citizens and free of any charges.” (updated 26 Sept 2015)

1. “access” implies that the information is available to citizens 24/7. In practice, this is likely to mean that the information may be pre-loaded onto handsets before sale and/or or may be loaded onto a micro SD card or smartphone after sale.

2. “free” of charge” means that the information is totally free to view and download, apart possibly from data usage charges (free data connection is desirable but is not a prerequisite)

3. “essential health information” means practical guidance for a wide range of healthcare situations commonly experienced in low-resource settings (eg common childhood illnesses, complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and first aid), as well as health education (eg promotion of healthy behaviour, nutrition practices). Information should be in a language and format that is readily understood, even for those who are illiterate.

4. It is recognised that (a) some aspects of the mHIFA goal are already a reality. For example, audio/video content on nutrition is already available (or soon will be) to a majority of the population of India, (b) progress towards the mHIFA goal is likely to be incremental and what is important is to accelerate and monitor such progress, and (c) the mHIFA Working Group will continue to lead the HIFA community in the progressive realisation of the goal.

The role of the mHIFA Working Group is to convene, to promote discussion and debate, to assess progress, and to advocate for change. To date, the group has produced the following outputs:

Royston G, Hagar C, Long L, McMahon D, Pakenham-Walsh N, Wadhwani N on behalf of the mHIFA Working Group. Mobile health-care information for all: a global challenge. The Lancet Global Health July 2015, Volume 3, No. 7, e356–e357

Ensuring that mHealth applications provide essential healthcare information for citizens in low resource settings (Geoff Royston, January 2015, PDF)

Trends and challenges for mHealth in developing countries (Geoff Royston, September 2014, PDF PowerPoint Presentation)

mHIFA Poster at the January 2014 BOBCATSSS International Library and Information Conference, Barcelona (Chris Hagar, PDF).

Hagar C & Kartzinel H. Healthcare Information for All by 2015: Preliminary findings and future direction. Information Development 2014

Download the mHIFA flyer here.

The mHIFA Survey (2013-14)

mHIFA commissioned a survey of mHealth projects by Dr. Christine Hagar, an assistant professor at the San José State University (SJSU) School of Library and Information Science, and Heather Kartzinel, SJSU student. The survey revealed that of the 1,700 mHealth programs/projects scanned, there are very few [<1%] projects that actually empower citizens in low-income countries with information on their phones for them to consult as and when they need it, in acute healthcare situations.

We invite your comments and suggestions on what is currently being done already in relation to the mHIFA SMART Goal, and ideas on how we can accelerate progress. Please join the HIFA2015 forum and we shall collate your inputs.

The mHIFA Goal was originally proposed, and is led, by the HIFA Challenge Working Group for Citizens, Families and Children.

mHIFA Expert Advisers

Peter Benjamin is the coordinator for Capacity Building for the mHealth Alliance, and is currently based in Cape Town. Previously he was managing director of Cell-Life (, South Africa. Professional interests: Using mobile technology to provide access to health information and services for the majority. In countries like South Africa, 90% of youth and adults have a cellphone. However, this is not well used as a channel to access healthcare. Mobile tech can become a way to get healthcare information that allows people to manage their own health (and their families). Mobile can also be the first point of contact with the health system – for health promotion & disease prevention; general health information and queries; triage services when there is a problem; linking & referral to health facilities; self-managed care for chronic conditions; maternal & child support; community monitoring of the health system.

Geoff Royston is an independent health analyst and researcher, former Head of Strategic Analysis and Operational Research in the Department of Health for England, and Past President of the UK Operational Research Society. His work has focused on informing the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes in health and social care, and on fostering the capabilities of others to work in these areas. Associated activities have included modelling for understanding the performance of complex systems, analysis and communication of risk, and horizon scanning and futures thinking. He has also worked on information and communication technology in the health sector, notably in leading the design and national launch of the telephone and online health information and advice service NHS Direct. He has served on both scientific and medical UK Research Council panels, and as an impact assessor for the UK higher education Research Excellence Framework. He is a member of the editorial board for the journal Health Care Management Science and in 2012 was Guest Editor for its special issue on Global Health.?He has been a consultant for the World Health Organisation, is a long standing member of the EURO Working Group on Operational Research Applied to Health Services, and is an expert adviser to the mHIFA (mobile Health Information for All) 2015 programme. geoff.royston AT