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December 4, 2011

Bloomberg Faculty Honored for mHealth Innovation

labriqueAssistant Professor Alain Labrique, PhD, has been named as one of the Top 11 Innovators in Mobile Health (mHealth) by the Rockefeller Foundation and the mHealth Alliance. The top 30 finalists were selected from dozens of nominees from 30 countries, with the final top 11 selected by a panel of expert judges and by popular web-based vote. The award recognizes individuals who have used mobile technology in innovative ways to improve health systems and outcomes, particularly in the most remote areas of the world.

Labrique was selected for developing the mCARE program with colleagues at Johns Hopkins and in Bangladesh. The mCARE program utilizes mobile phone and database technologies to improve registration and surveillance of pregnancies and to optimize early neonatal and postpartum follow-up care in an effort to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality. The mCARE program, currently being developed and tested in rural Gaibandha, Bangladesh, is a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health collaboration with technical and research partners mPower-Health and the JiVitA Maternal Child Health and Nutrition Research Project, under the stewardship of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

According to data collected in previous population research on pregnancy outcomes in this area by Keith P. West, Parul Christian, Labrique and other colleagues, 50 percent of women experiencing an obstetric crisis used a mobile phone to either call a provider, arrange transport, financial aid or obtain medical advice. In previous studies, JiVitA has successfully dispatched nurse-midwife teams at the onset of labor, triggered by mobile phone calls, resulting in highly skilled birth attendance for 89 percent of 500 pregnancies. However, although mobile phone ownership has increased in rural Bangladesh over the last few years, a persistent gap in access remains among families in lower socioeconomic settings, where the burden of neonatal mortality and morbidity are greatest. The project is supported by a grant from the UBS Optimus
Foundation.

“We are humbled by this recognition of a project that reflects interdisciplinary teamwork at its best, combining the skills and insights of many committed public health leaders,” said Labrique, who is an assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of International Health and Epidemiology and is director of the new University-wide JHU Global mHealth Initiative. “Our population research in remote, resource-limited settings has given us the privilege of studying the tragic, and often preventable, trajectories to mortality experienced by mothers and newborns in these settings. We are hoping that we can use ubiquitous, local mobile technologies to connect people to appropriate care, compress the time between crises and care, and create new opportunities for targeted intervention to further reduce the number of unnecessary neonatal deaths we see each year,” added L:abrique, who also guest lectures at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

Winners were recognized at a special reception at the 2011 mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C., on December 4.

Media contact: Tim Parsons, director of Public Affairs, at 410-955-7619 or  tmparson@jhsph.edu.