This year’s theme for the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA) Conference is “dignity, rights and quality:  towards a health care revolution”.

The conference will be taking place from 3 – 6 September 2014 at the Protea Ranch Resort in Polokwane, Limpopo. The full programme can be seen here.

Top eHealth organisations such as Mobenzi, Health Systems Trust, Anova Health Institute, the Medical Research Council and the North West Department of Health (NW DoH) will be co-hosting a workshop at the conference focusing on the role of mHealth in the “health care revolution”.

PHASA Conference spokesperson, Dr Irwin Friedman, noted that:  “At the heart of one of the most exciting revolutions in the health sector is mHealth, a term used for the practice of medicine and public health, supported by mobile devices. mHealth is being used in a  variety of ways, some as simple as providing call centres (Hello Doctor), social media (Mxit), providing help desks or sending out an SMS to provide information on topics related to maternal and  child care (MomConnect) or HIV (Cell-Life).”

“mHealth has equally been used to deal with more advanced health service programmes such as supporting the work of Community Health Workers or undertaking and managing health research (Mobenzi, Mezzanine, Dimagi). The reason for its escalating importance is that there are more than six billion mobile phones worldwide, incredibly 75% in developing countries. In South Africa, the impact is just as important with more than 75% of low-income groups in the 15 year + age group owning a cell phone. As a result there has been strong growth in the number of “Mobile for Development” services launched in recent years. Services have mostly been developed for the most inexpensive basic phones. However, with the advent of cheaper smart phones, richer applications are becoming possible,” continued Dr Friedman.

The goal of the mHealth workshop at the PHASA Conference is to interactively explore the ways in which mobile technology can be harnessed to strengthen the public health system. The workshop will provide participants with practical skills in using mobile phones to simplify and improve monitoring and evaluation, epidemiological analysis as well as the management of field-based intervention programmes. There will be presentations on real-world case studies and demonstrations of mHealth deployed in South Africa for Community Health Workers.

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