ITU, WHO use mobile phone technology to fight against non-communicable diseases

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Health Organization (WHO) on October 17, 2012 launched a new partnership called the ‘m-Health’ initiative to use mobile technology, in particular text messaging and apps, to help combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases.

Using mobile telephone technology, both organizations believe that m-Health practices can help save lives, reduce illness and disability, and reduce healthcare costs significantly.

The initiative was launched and is being discussed at the ITU Telecom World 2012, currently in session in Dubai.

Through the initiative, ITU and WHO in a statement said they “will provide evidence-based and operational guidance to encourage partners worldwide, especially governments, to implement m-Health interventions to address prevention and treatment of NCDs and their common risk factors – tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol.”

“By joining forces, ITU and WHO will fight against debilitating non-communicable diseases that can be controlled through the intervention of m-Health solutions and services that are at once cost effective, scalable and sustainable,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré.

Officials say the technology will build on current projects, existing health systems and platforms, and will involve partnerships between governments, NGOs and the private sector.

WHO and ITU Member States are also testing mobile solutions for NCDs – ranging from providing assistance to help people quit tobacco, helping people increase their activity levels, eating more healthily and helping patients with non-communicable diseases better manage their conditions. All of these experiences will feed into the new initiative.

The initiative will run for an initial four-year period and will focus on prevention, treatment and enforcement to control non-communicable diseases.

The joint ITU-WHO work plan was a direct follow up to the high level meeting on the prevention and control of NCDs convened by the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 2011.

Non-communicable diseases are some of the leading causes of death and disease in both developed countries and emerging economies. Of the 57 million deaths globally, NCDs contribute to an estimated 36 million deaths every year, including 14 million people dying between the ages of 30 to 70, according to officials.

By Ekow Quandzie

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