87% of the global population is a mobile phone user with 4.5 billion users in the developing world (Caricia instructional video)?? That blows my mind! While most of these phones are not smartphones, it is still incredible that in the hands of low-income populations in, say, Sub-saharan Africa, is a device that was, just 20-years ago, a status symbol among the wealthy. Also, modern device is cheaper and way more powerful than the $4000 archaic tool of the past!
So, how do we use these tools for health both nationally and internationally? Shirky in Here Comes Everybody gives very good advice. The tools for social media must fit within the community one is targeting. And also the tool used very much shapes how the community interacts with one another. With this in mind, mobile devices are in the hands of 87% of the population so that’s good. They allow for intimate and informal discussions. How often does someone read your text messages? Sometimes probably but not the majority of the messages one receives. But what else is important in creating successful mHealth campaigns?
1. The tool has to be user friendly
In the case of mHealth, organizations can use apps, texting services, regular SMS texts or phone calls to plug into users. So whatever, population is being targeted, that population better be able to use that tool. If you are reaching pregnant women in India who have never seen a video on a mobile phone, it might be worthwhile to send an army of people out to the communities to provide pregnant women with mobile content which is initiated by a staff member. Or, one must make sure if they are targeting a population with 15% smartphone users, creating a smartphone app is not going to work.
With an interactive tool, such as a messaging campaign which allows the user to input a smoking quitting date like SmokeFreeTxt, this allows content to be personalized so that the user feels connected with the content and is more likely to participate in activities. Messages can be adapted to the needs of the user through simple text back features or by providing a toll free number to call for further support.
3. The tool should be personalized
While this is linked with the tool being interactive, it should attempt to be personalized even without being interactive. Verbiage used should be sensitive as many of these campaigns such as the youth+tech+health campaign is discussing personal and sensitive topics like sex health and HIV prevention, not often topics discussed over the evening dinner table (but maybe it should be!).
4. The tool should come from a bottom-up stance
Making the user feel they are below the person providing orders or commands is an easy way to make people feel small and not want to listen. Once again, given the sensitive nature of these campaigns (telling your Indian mother-in-law you’re not going to throw away your colostrum), the admin of the tool must make the user feel like they are on the same level.
5. Evaluation is part of the process
Once the tool is up and running, that’s not it! The organization should take down statistics of use, what worked, what didn’t and adapt accordingly to make the tool more effective. Evaluation of the process also helps ensure resources aren’t being wasted on a project that isn’t working. With every program, there must be evaluation!