INDIA — Forty percent of child mortality worldwide occurs within the first 28 days of life. The critical first 60 seconds after birth are when life-saving treatments of mother and child must begin. In India, hospital access can be limited, especially in rural areas. Due to this, many women rely on midwives to aid them in the birthing process.
In 2010, nearly one in four births in India were carried out by untrained midwives. Here, the use of the word ‘untrained’ is cause for concern. The World Health Organization recommends that while six midwives should exist per 1,000 births, the skill set of the midwives is more important than the quantity of midwives themselves.
Geeta Lal, senior advisor for strategic partnerships in the sexual and reproductive health branch at the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), has expressed her concern about the lack of training midwives have. “Even where [schools]do exist, they are not properly equipped, the doctors are not there, the trainers are not there, and clinical skill in training is particularly lacking,” Lal said to the New Security Beat.
Online training programs may be the key to ensuring that the women who oversee 25 percent of Indian births have the medical knowledge to reduce harm to newborns and their mothers. These training programs come from mobile technology, which midwives in India is advantageous for many reasons. The first is because of its cost efficiency.
Lal said due to the decreasing cost of computers, it costs less to buy a laptop and use an already-existing UNPF training module than it would to purchase the books required in other training programs.
The UNPF module focuses on teaching birth attendants how to recognize red flags and respond quickly and appropriately. This mobile technology is not only low-cost and convenient for midwives, but also allows them to be trained in conditions that mirror the ones they will be working in.
Another advantage of mobile technology for midwives in India is the online format itself. It allows the women to learn computer skills while they gain medical knowledge at the same time. These skills also help them in other areas of their jobs, according to Lal.
Auxiliary nurse midwives in India are responsible for providing primary healthcare services, such as nutrition and immunization programs, to patients. Ordinarily, these women carry 12-15 different registers to record data, and then spend time manually entering the information into a database at a later time.
Auxiliary Nurse Midwives Online (ANMOL) is a tablet-based application developed by India’s Ministry of Health and Welfare with support from UNICEF. It allows midwives to use tablets to enter data that is immediately input into a central server. The computer skills they learn from having this kind of mobile technology often help them keep and organize their healthcare records more efficiently.
This application also works offline, Lal said, in case of limited internet access. All entered data is saved and is eventually input to the server as soon as an internet connection becomes available. Additionally, ANMOL includes a section of important medical information to further increase midwives’ knowledge so they can help mothers and children.
Midwives are necessary to relieve some of the pressure on the over-burdened Indian healthcare system. Online training programs and data entry ensure they have proper medical knowledge. Mobile technology for midwives increases convenience and computer skills, while at the same time being cost-effective. This technology provides a bright future for improving quality of life for mothers and babies in India.
– Nathaniel Siegel