Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Mobile health (mHealth) for tobacco control

The use of mobile and wireless technologies to support the achievement of health objectives (mHealth) has the potential to transform the face of health service delivery across the globe [WHO 2011]. According to the International Telecommunication Union there are now close to 5 billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world, over 70% of them reside in low- and middle-income countries and over 85% of the world’s population is now covered by a commercial wireless signal. The penetration of mobile phone networks in many low- and middle-income countries surpasses other infrastructure such as paved roads and electricity, and dwarfs fixed internet deployment. The UN estimates that by 2012 half the people living in remote areas will have a mobile phone. This growing penetration of mobile technology has already started to transform the way health services are delivered – but there are lessons learned in order to bring them to scale.

Mobile phones are currently used in connection with a wide range of public health initiatives and examples exist from both developing and developed countries. The advantages of mobile technologies are vast: availability, accessibility, innovation, cost effectiveness, real-time access to information, and portability are just a few. Most mHealth projects in developing countries have focused primarily on HIV, malaria and MCH and have used text messages (SMS) primarily to run awareness raising, communications campaigns.The use of mHealth in tobacco control is largely limited to smoking cessation in the developed world, particularly in New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States. In 2011, WHO launched an initiative to promote the use of mHealth for tobacco control in developing countries.

Projects on mobile health (mHealth) for tobacco control

The WHO Tobacco Free Initiative is looking to work with governments, public and private sectors to develop a series of cost-effective, scalable and sustainable projects that will have population-wide impacts, to help countries advance their tobacco control work.

International Telecommunication Union TELECOM World 2011

The intersection of mobile health technology and tobacco control
October 2011, Geneva, Switzerland

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