mHealth priorities differ in developing nations

A new study making the rounds today claims that most apps in high-income regions of the world are focused on diseases, while there's a shortage of such apps in low-income countries.

Is this a surprise to anyone?

The study, conducted by the Toronto-based Journal of Medical Internet Research's mHealth and uHealth, says high-income countries have the money and the ability to do the research to create these apps, while low-income countries lack those resources. There are a few exceptions, of course – apps that focus on HIV and AIDS, for instance.

What this study doesn't point out is that mHealth apps are thriving in low-income parts of the world, but they're focused on different things – like basic healthcare. They target issues such as hygiene, nutrition, pregnancy and neo-natal care. They reach people who can't get that information because they don't have access to a doctor, in places where that data can literally save lives.

Apps are going to succeed if they fulfill a specific need. In developed countries, they'll thrive if they provide access to information or resources that go beyond the regular doctor's visit. That would include information on diseases. In middle- to low-income countries, where access to a doctor is much more challenging, apps need to take the place of that doctor's visit, and start with the basics.

Ask a mother in Africa or India whether she'd like information on child nutrition or high blood pressure. Sure, she'd probably like both, but she'd much rather learn how to properly feed her family.

It's not that there's a shortage of disease-related apps in these parts of the world – it's just that there are far more important issues for those apps to address.

See also:

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Could gamification be a secret to cutting care costs?

Mobile healthcare gets the feel of haptics and robotics

 

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