West Africa is home to one of the largest epidemics of malaria and HIV, and the number of people infected keeps increasing, mainly due to the dismal state of healthcare in the continent.
Whilst some nations in West Africa have high infant mortality rates and short life expectancies, the resolve to tackle and eliminate these problems, trumps them. Governments in the region have shown to be open to innovative solutions, a move which is considerably benefitting public health. Recent partnerships between local governments and private organizations reveal a silver lining powerful enough to change the healthcare landscape of the West African region.
Novartis is a Swiss pharmaceutical and healthcare giant who has remained committed to the causes of public welfare and social responsibility. Novartis’ contribution to public health in Africa has been to launch campaigns that cut through the red tape of bureaucracy and deliver effective solutions. The SMS for life is one such program, launched to manage stock-outs of malaria medicine in sub-Saharan Africa. The stock-out monitoring system proved to be extremely effective in managing supplies in more than 10,000 healthcare facilities and was heralded as an indispensable tool for the healthcare sector.
Fresh off the heels of the SMS for Life, Novartis has announced a new technology-based healthcare program called SMS for Life 2.0, which further develops the mobile infrastructure developed in its earlier initiative and broadens its scope of work. Initially, the program will be rolled out in Kaduna, the third most populous state in Nigeria. The program will oversee a partnership between public and private sector companies, which will be headed by Novartis. Other partners include the Kaduna State Ministry of Health and Vodacom. This alliance will allow all partners to contribute their areas of expertise such as: cutting edge medication, local health updates and mobile technology, and positively impact the underserved communities in the state. Technology can sufficiently enhance the lives of remote populations in the country through stock monitoring, disease surveillance and healthcare worker training. Not only would it help increase life expectancy, but would also be beneficial for the economy and local businesses by boosting employment.
The reinvigorated SMS for Life 2.0 will tackle challenges that afflict healthcare units located at the periphery of Kaduna state. The program will utilise smartphones and tablet computers to train healthcare workers to keep track of the stocks of medicines for ailments commonly affecting the state such as: malaria, TB, leprosy, HIV and others. The training of the workers will be imparted locally at venues which host on-demand eLearning modules and will also enable surveillance over infant and maternal mortality caused by viruses and infections. The SMS for Life 2.0 is far from parochial in its scope, Novartis through its partner Right to Care have reached an agreement with the Zambian Ministry of Health to deploy the program at 2000 facilities in the country. These efforts by Novartis reiterate its commitment to eradicating malaria and improving public health in West Africa.