The ubiquitous mobile phone – and the many apps which are so commonplace in our lives – have been playing a critical role in the improvement of health and in the spreading of health information over the past few years.
In India, a U.K. aid-funded family planning project (“Project Ujjwal”) led by Palladium and the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP), developed an android-based app called Gyan Jyoti, or “light of knowledge,” for use in the state of Bihar.
Project Ujjwal aimed to reduce maternal deaths from unwanted pregnancies by increasing the use of family planning methods, improving birth spacing practices and preventing unsafe abortions in the states of Bihar and Odisha.
While the goal of the program was familiar, the road to its implementation was not. To aid in this effort, the Gyan Jyoti app was designed specifically for use by community health workers in India, called ASHAs, who visit homes in rural areas to promote family planning and other healthy behaviors.
So, to set the scene – the health worker enters a home, sits with the client(s), and begins counseling on family planning. With just a few swipes, the mHealth phone app Gyan Jyoti allows the health worker to incorporate different types of entertaining and useful content into the counseling session. Together with the health worker, the clients watch the video content and begin to ask questions. If a tough question arises, the health worker can tap an icon to quickly find the answer, or perhaps to watch another short video related to the topic of interest. Soon enough, the household is engaged and learning.
The app contains persuasive audiovisual materials about family planning behaviors and modern contraceptive methods, including entertaining and educational films, testimonials from satisfied couples who are using contraception, Q & A videos with physicians and other information that aims to dispel myths and misconceptions about modern contraception.
The user interface follows a menu-driven, icon-based format for ease of use in low literacy settings. It also functions as a self-learning tool for the health worker, who can receive up to the minute updates about the information she explains to her clients.
The ultimate aim of the app is to assist community health workers and clients in deciding on a family planning method during counseling sessions and accelerate the rate of adoption of spacing methods among young couples.
Learn more about the program – including how it was designed, implemented and evaluated – in the most recent Spotlight on The Health COMpass.