Fogarty awards $4.4 million to advance mobile health

November / December 2018 | Volume 17, Number 6

Close-up of person enter data using a mobile device
Photo by David Snyder/CDC Foundation CC BY 2.0

Awards made through Fogarty's mHealth program support
research related to hardware or software components for
mobile devices to improve health in low-resource settings.

Mobile phones, tablets and other wireless devices are increasingly being deployed to improve health in low-resource settings. To help the field advance, Fogarty has awarded $4.4 million in a dozen two-year awards to support mobile health (mHealth) research in low- and middle-income countries.

“By leapfrogging technologies and harnessing the power of mobile devices and applications, we hope to generate an evidence base to guide research, enhance clinical care and improve health outcomes,” said Fogarty Director Dr. Roger I. Glass.

Begun in 2014, the initiative supports research related to hardware or software components for mobile devices. The program’s priority is to support innovative, well-designed multidisciplinary projects that aim to produce generalizable knowledge for the field.

The latest round of funding includes a variety of projects that target a broad range of populations and health problems. For example, one team will use its grant to study the effectiveness of using a telecolposcopy approach to improve cervical cancer diagnoses in Peru. In Uganda, grantees will evaluate a new method of discovering cervical pre-cancer using a low-cost smartphone confocal endoscope, and attempt to provide adequate treatment in a single visit.

Pediatric cancer is the focus of a program in Tanzania that will implement and evaluate an mHealth case management system. In Uganda, researchers will study a digital toolkit to facilitate caregivers’ ability to access basic preventive mental health services for children.

In Pakistan, scientists will target expectant fathers with a speech-based service to connect them with doctors, with the aim of reducing maternal mortality. Current public health outreach efforts are largely directed at women. In Rwanda, a grant will support research on the use of telemedicine to diagnose surgical site infections among rural women following cesarean deliveries. Meanwhile, a Cameroonian team will test the feasibility of using mobile phones as a follow-up tool for trauma patients, to identify those who would benefit from further care, and to better understand the long-term disability and socioeconomic costs of trauma.

In Bangladesh, grantees will study how to scale-up a phone-based program that sends electronic reminders to improve hygiene practices with the goal of reducing pediatric diarrheal disease. Also in Bangladesh, a team will design, build, deploy and study a mobile phone-based application to monitor the progress of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

A project in Thailand will investigate how to use mobile solutions to improve drug adherence for populations at risk of HIV. In Zambia, a grant will support research into a medical records application that uses ear morphology as the basis for patient identification.

Finally, in Costa Rica, scientists will work to reduce insect-borne diseases such and dengue, Chagas and Zika by creating a novel, community-driven, GPS-based smart device application. The app will map insect risks, identify and demonstrate community strategies for remediation of insect habitats, and evaluate engagement of local community and tourist populations to help identify risk.

Awards

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