News for February 2009

FrontlineSMS:Medic launches

Over the past few weeks, a team has formed around FrontlineSMS in healthcare – FrontlineSMS:Medic. From our website:

FrontlineSMS:Medic is a team committed to supporting community health workers (CHWs) in the developing world using appropriate mobile technology. After almost a year of working with FrontlineSMS in Malawi, we are launching FrontlineSMS:Medic to extend the capabilities of this software and bring it to health centers across several continents.


The group will have a multi-pronged focus: (1) Rolling out the current FrontlineSMS build and supporting global partners as they implement SMS programs, and (2) Taking a modular approach to the creation of innovative mobile technologies, furthering the impact of FrontlineSMS in rural healthcare settings, and (3) using prospective studies and RCTs to assess the impact of FrontlineSMS:Medic.

Planned additions to FrontlineSMS’s functionality include (a) best practices for using the upcoming forms client within FrontlineSMS, (b) a patch with OpenMRS, allowing CHWs in the field to remotely update and retrieve electronic patient data via SMS, and (c) interfacing FrontlineMMS with SMS/MMS mediated medical diagnostic currently being developed at UCLA.

Please point your browser to, read through our extended mission statement, shoot us an email, and get involved.

Posted: February 23rd, 2009
Categories: Other posts
Comments: 3 Comments.

Alexander Ngalande comes to K Street


On March 19th, 2009, Alex Ngalande will be speaking at IREX, the International Research and Exchanges Board, in Washington, D.C., alongside Ken Banks – founder of Alex is the home-based care nurse at St. Gabriel’s Hospital, and runs Mobiles in Malawi. It will be his first time in the US.


Before the SMS program, Alex had never used a computer. After a few hours playing with FrontlineSMS and the donated laptop, the entire program was handed over to him. A large reason – if not the reason – the project has been successful is Alex’s ownership. I missed his presentation at MobileActive08, but I hope to be by his side, this time.

Alex is kind, committed, and professional – I couldn’t be happier he’s been given this opportunity. My family is equally happy, as we’ll be hosting Alex for a portion of his stay.

Posted: February 16th, 2009
Categories: Other posts
Comments: 5 Comments.

Why I blog about (and work in) Africa


With this post, I am responding to kiwanja’s tag, and following in the footsteps of very impressive voices. Here are my $.02.

If someone asked me why I blog about Africa, I would give a straight response, “Because I work there.” A question might follow – “Well, why do you work there?” I think I can tackle that query with a quick story.

I was at St. Gabriel’s Hospital in the summer of 2007, volunteering with the mobile HIV testing unit, helping with immunizations, and counting pills in the pharmacy. When I wasn’t occupied, I spent time in the wards with my Mother, a physical therapist. It was my first time on the continent.

I was told that the hospital serves over 1/4 million people, spread 100 miles in every direction. There were two doctors on staff, assisted by a small group of clinical officers. The staff toldĀ  me they had recruited over 400 volunteers to act as community health workers (CHWs).

In four weeks at the hospital, I met only one CHW, who came in every week or so. I’d learn his name was Dickson Mtanga.

One day, Dickson was watching my Mother as she worked with a stroke patient, keeping track of the different exercises. As always, he carried a small notebook, wrapped in newspaper. I had seen him with the notebook, before. This time, curiosity got the best of me, and I asked him what was inside. He turned to me with a smile, scooted my way, and proudly opened the journal – revealing impeccable drug adherence charts for over 20 HIV-positive patients he was tracking. He’d walk 15 miles to check in with the patients, then another 25 miles to the hospital – just to have the ART clinician sign off on his volunteer work, and look over the statuses of his patients.

The thought that there were, potentially, 400+ ‘Dicksons’ within the hospital’s catchment area stunned me. The staff admitted that these CHWs were as disconnected from the hospital as the patients, and Mobiles in Malawi was born. I write about Africa and Malawi because I work there, and the people I work for are there.

Posted: February 10th, 2009
Categories: HIV/AIDS Care, Home-Based Care
Tags: , , ,
Comments: 7 Comments.

Jopsa partners with VillageReach


Jopsa is excited to announce a partnership with VillageReach, a US-based nonprofit, to support their community health initiative in Balaka district, Malawi. Since 2000, VillageReach has been developing innovative solutions to issues of “last mile” healthcare logistics and infrastructure, collaborating with governments and local partners to bring healthcare and other essential services to those most in need.

In Mozambique, VillageReach and its local partners are working with 251 health centers, covering a population of over 5.2 million people. They recently released an evaluation of their projects there, cataloging some stunning results – e.g. 26.5% increase in immunization coverage and reduced vaccine stockouts from 80% to 1%.

In 2007, VillageReach began exploring opportunities for a community health project in Balaka district. Based on intensive needs assessments, their community-driven, cost-effective interventions will focus on Kwitanda health center and its catchment area. Jopsa’s goal is to complement VillageReach’s efforts to improve disease prevention and increase access to health care. The implementation of an SMS network in June 2009 will link remote communities and Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) to Kwitanda health center and Balaka district hospital.

The SMS program will expand the Mobiles in Malawi model, using FrontlineSMS, low-cost cell phones, solar panels, and text-messaging to support rural healthcare delivery. will provide updates from the project manager, on the ground.

Posted: February 2nd, 2009
Categories: Other posts
Comments: 13 Comments.