ICTs in maternal and child health poised for scale up in Uttar Pradesh, India
published 22 February 2013
published 22 February 2013
On 20 February, I attended a workshop on ICTs to improve maternal and child health services, organised by Intrahealth’s Manthan project (also one of IDEAS’ implementation project partners) in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.
It was inspiring to hear vivid accounts of technology enabled health initiatives from different states in India:
Lessons learned from these initiatives can help in rolling out ICTs in Uttar Pradesh on a large scale.
Going to scale in Uttar Pradesh
As the government has the biggest platform to roll out new technologies across the state, it is important for new ICTs to be linked to government programmes in order to achieve scale up. In a lively panel discussion that followed the presentations, the Mission Director of Uttar Pradesh’s National Rural Health Mission, Mr. Amit Ghosh, expressed the government’s commitment to use ICTs to improve its health services.
It was interesting to hear plans for new state-side developments recently launched or on the horizon from Mr Ghosh:
ICTs could help to improve health services for women and children, and the government is examining several models closely for scaling up in UP.
Which ICTs are good to be scaled-up across the whole of Uttar Pradesh?
During the workshop, the most interesting debate was around the role of evidence in scaling up. Should a bank of evidence showing ICTs have improved health be gathered first, or should the government roll the new technologies out as soon as possible in order to reach the maximum number of people and achieve maximum impact? Though opinions were divided, there was general consensus that all ICTs need to keep the final goal of maternal and child mortality reduction on the frontburner.
The challenge: ICTs and other health system improvements need to go hand in hand
It was heartening to note that the group was able to view the strengths and limitations of technologies in the right perspective. There was recognition that ICTs cannot substitute for missing human elements, and that the use of data in decision making needs to be strengthened alongside the use of ICTs to capture health data.
Mr. Ghosh, the Uttar Pradesh National Rural Health Mission Director, expressed the government’s resolve to improve governance alongside technology deployment. Issues of privacy and confidentiality would need to be addressed as well as reconciling with the old paper based health information system. Manthan’s Project Director Mr. Amod Kumar said that an ICT vision and supporting policies would be required to steer the way forward for the state.
‘Despite the challenges, ICTs will come into all spheres of public life, but rather than technology driving change in the health system, we need to make sure it is the health sector dictating the use of the technology’.
– Mr. Deepak Aggarwal, Special Secretary Health, Government of Uttar Pradesh