Fast Company

Frog Design, UNICEF Team Up on African Health Initiative

Woman and baby

There are plenty of dire health issues throughout the world that can't easily be solved, but a lucky few can be helped along by mobile technology. A partnership between UNICEF and Frog Design aims to make that happen in Malawi and Zambia, where there is little communications infrastructure to reach the general population.

The organizations are working together on Project Mwana, a mobile health initiative that aims to dramatically increase mothers' visits to local clinics by January 2012. The first goal: HIV care and prevention.

"A mother will come in for her first prenatal visit, and if she's positive for HIV, [the clinic] will try to give her drugs to prevent transmission. But there's still a risk," explains Erica Kochi, Communications Specialist with UNICEF. "After a baby is born, it can't be tested until it's six weeks old because it still has its mother's antibodies. "The mother has to come back at six weeks. If they don't come back, a community health person has to find them."

After that, there's still the laborious process of sending a blood sample to a far away national laboratory, waiting for results, bringing them back, and finding the mother again--a three- to four-month process. So UNICEF concocted a fix: cutting the diagnosis turnaround time by creating a built-in system in the lab that automatically sends results back to clinic workers. UNICEF also developed RemindMi, a mobile system that notifies community health workers when mothers need to bring their infants in for HIV testing.

Frog, for its part, will work on the user design side of things. "We have a team in Zambia right now," says Doreen Lorenzo, president of Frog Design. "The Frog team will be out there for a couple weeks, but it's an ongoing project. Our job is to try to improve what's already been done."

The Project Mwana partnership is part of Frog Design's Mobile Mandate, a multi-year investment that includes many of Frog's already-existing mobile initiatives, including mobile money in Afghanistan and Movirtu. "[These projects] are all about giving people access to info quickly and easily so that they can improve their lives," Lorenzo says.

Photo Credit: Merrick Schaefer

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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