UNICEF Innovation is excited to see our partner IntraHealth receive the Grand Challenge Award from USAID for developing mHero to support the Ebola response.

The below article was originally published on March 20, 2015 on IntraHealth.org. To see original post, click here.

IntraHealth International is among the 15 organizations to receive an award from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of the ongoing call for innovations — Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development. IntraHealth will use the award to further develop and expand its mHero technology in collaboration with UNICEF and a consortium of partners.

mHero is an integrated health worker communication and coordination system. This SMS-based mHealth platform extends and enhances existing national health information systems to get critical information to health workers throughout a country in real time via their mobile phones.

Two-way communication between health workers and health officials can help bring an epidemic under control, protect health workers and their communities, and curb future outbreaks while strengthening ongoing communication among the different levels of the health system. The platform allows health officials to send targeted messages to specific groups of health workers, and can help any country’s health sector strengthen its ongoing communication and data collection systems.

There have been over 24,000 cases of Ebola and more than 10,000 deaths since the outbreak began, the vast majority of which have been in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. It has been a particularly deadly disease for health workers: 852 have been infected and 492 have died in the three countries. But transmission rates may be beginning to decline in West Africa; as of March 15, Liberia had reported three consecutive weeks with zero new Ebola infections.

IntraHealth and UNICEF Innovation developed mHero in 2014 to provide a trusted channel of information and support for frontline health workers in Ebola-affected communities. mHero was originally designed for Liberia, where national health officials have led its implementation. The Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare successfully piloted mHero in four counties in December 2014 and has included mHero as an integral component of its official Investment Plan for Building a Resilient Health System in Liberia.

mHero leverages existing health information systems like IntraHealth’s iHRIS, the University of Oslo’s DHIS2, and UNICEF’s RapidPro platforms. RapidPro has been deployed in the three Ebola-affected countries to support mobile data collection, communication, and feedback. The integration of these different technologies was possible because they were originally designed according to OpenHIE standards, which ensure interoperability.

With this award, IntraHealth will continue to help the ministry in Liberia scale up mHero.  IntraHealth also plans to work with the ministry of health in Guinea, and possibly in Sierra Leone, to implement the technology. Both ministries have signed letters of support. IntraHealth will hold a knowledge-sharing and platform-development workshop in West Africa to encourage South-South collaboration and sharing of best practices. The award will also be used to further develop the functionality and analytical components of the mHero platform.

IntraHealth will continue working with a global consortium of partners including UNICEF, Jembi, Thoughtworks, and HISP to enhance and scale the mHero system.

Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development is a collaboration of USAID, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the US Department of Defense.

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