By Lisa Martin
(Australian Associated Press)
Nurses in remote Ghana have a new secret weapon in the uphill battle to keep mums and their bubs alive and healthy.
Smart phone technology is commonplace in the western world but in rural Africa it is proving to be a game-changer for health care.
Canberra-based ThinkPlace won an international Design Management Institute award for devising a smart phone application to help remote Ghanian nurses diagnose patients, calculate medication dosages, access training and information and connect with each other.
So far 215 nurses have been using the app for about a year across five pilot districts with an estimated reach of 20,000 patients.
ThinkPlace program director Ledia Andrawes says the application has empowered nurses – who, in some areas, are the only health care workers available – making them more confident.
“You could probably live your whole life and not have any interaction with a doctor in some remote parts of Ghana,” she told AAP.
Nurses have given the application the thumbs up.
“You feel good, you feel that whatever you are telling the (patient) is not a lie,” a nurse from Ghana’s Ningo Prampram district said.
ThinkPlace spokesman Darren Menachemson says the key behind the application’s success was the input of nurses in the design process – listening to their experiences, learning about their challenges and observing them at work in remote villages.
“It creates a sense of empathy which results every time in a better solution,” he told AAP.
“You have to go in with an open mind and learn what needs to be done, not coming in with a solution and trying to make it fit.”
It was also important to “reality check your assumptions” and allow them sometimes to die during the process.
There was scope to potentially roll out the phone application to nurses in other developing countries or even in remote indigenous communities in Australia, he said.
The project was a joint effort with Ghana Health Services, Grammeen Foundation, Concern Worldwide and Gates Foundation.
SNAPSHOT OF HEALTH CHALLENGES IN GHANA
* In 2013 for every 100,000 live births in Ghana, 380 mothers didn’t make it, down from 410 in 2010.
* For children under five there are 60 deaths per 1000.
* 44 infants die before they reach one year old per 1000 live births in Ghana.
* Life expectancy at birth 61 years.
* Challenges for remote nurses in Ghana include lack of diagnostic tools, shortage of drugs, lack of petrol and transport to travel for home visits or outreach, sexual harassment and snake bites.
HOW AUSTRALIA COMPARES
* Maternal mortality rate six women die for every 100,000 live births.
* Mortality rate for kids under five – four per 1000 births.
* Mortality rate for infants under one – three per 1000 births.
* Life expectancy at birth 82 years.
(Source: World Bank)