One of the objectives of the Sectorial Program for Healthcare 2013-2018 is aimed at improving maternal health and reducing child mortality. Despite governmental efforts, Mexico is still lagging behind in preventive medicine due to low quality healthcare services and the lack of education and access to information on healthcare, according to UNICEF. While maternal mortality is low in Mexico, perinatal mortality rate is up to 12%. To address this issue, President Peña, the social program Prospera, and UNICEF teamed up to launch Prospera Digital, a new initiative to improve maternal and infant health with the support of mobile technology.
The use of mobile and wireless technologies to achieve health objectives is a global trend known as mHealth. Its growth is due to the rapid advances of mobile technologies and applications and the massive number of subscribers – there are now over 5 billion people using them, of which 70% is living in low- and middle-income countries. A study conducted by the WHO Global Observatory for eHealth found that 83% of the 144 Member States has offered at least one type of mHealth service. However, most countries have implemented four to six programs, including health-call centers, emergency toll-free telephone services, managing emerging and disasters, and mobile telemedicine.
The Mexican government will be able to deliver SMS messages to pregnant women through the RapidPro platform – an open source application developed by UNICEF international that enables governments to send real-time information increasing communities’ access to lifesaving services. It has been used in several countries, including Zambia, where text messages about HIV/AIDS are sent to the population, and Liberia, where the mHero application available on RapidPro joined the fight against ebola. In Mexico, the pre-pilot was launched on September 21 in 12 healthcare units in the State of Mexico, where 150 pregnant women participated. The pilot stage of Prospera Digital took place on December 15 reaching 5,000 women in vulnerable conditions. In subsequent stages, the platform will be scaled up to 7 million women after reviewing several health status indicators.
Prospera Digital also has a financial education component aligned with the Integral Program for Financial Inclusion (PROIIF). In this respect, the platform will provide financial education programs, programmed savings, and access to micro credits, insurance, and other financial services.
Mobile technologies are widely used by all socioeconomic sectors in Mexico, including the lowest one with 60% of households owning a mobile phone and more than 90% of the areas having effective coverage and connectivity. Moreover, with a literacy rate of 95%, everything is rigged in favor of Prospera Digital. This is great news for people living in remote areas with little or no access to healthcare services and who will be provided with practical and helpful advices. Prospera Digital certainly puts Mexico at the forefront of digital healthcare innovation in the region and the world.