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WHO, ITU Launch mHealth Initiative

October 19, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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The World Health Organization (WHO) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) are launching a global mobile health (mHealth) initiative, aimed at using text messaging and apps to combat noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases.

With the initiative, ITU and WHO promise to provide evidence-based and operational guidance for various worldwide entities, especially governments, to implement mHealth interventions to prevent NCDs. According to WHO, NCDs contribute to an estimated 36 million deaths every year, including 14 million people dying between the ages of 30 and 70. WHO predicts mHealth can save lives, reduce illness and disability, and reduce healthcare costs significantly.

“WHO is already using mobile devices to carry out surveillance of noncommunicable diseases and their risk factors. For example, the Global Adult Tobacco Surveillance system has used mobile phones to capture data on tobacco use in 17 countries – covering over half of the world’s population. This experience of running population-scale mobile projects will be vital to the initiative,” Oleg Chestnov, M.D., WHO assistant director general for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, said in a statement.

The ITU-WHO mHealth initiative promises to build on current projects, existing health systems and platforms, and will involve partnerships between governments, non-profits, and the private sector. The initiative, which will initially run for a 4-year period, will include partners providing guidance on technical expertise while government help providers roll out operational projects.

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