You are here

GHF Kristin: Cell Phones Saving Lives

In Indonesia, cell phones are as ubiquitous as they are in the United States. While they are used for similar purposes like group chats, navigation and even Pokémon Go, the Expanding Maternal and Neonatal Survival (EMAS) program is using the devices to help pregnant women and newborns get access to the care they need. EMAS is a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) program that supports the Government of Indonesia in reducing maternal and newborn mortality in six provinces across the country.

SijariEMAS (Sistem Informasi Jejaring Rujukan Maternal & Neonata), an SMS-based referral system that enables midwives to refer pregnant women to hospitals in the event of a complication, is one of the projects implemented by EMAS.

The system works like this: when a midwife identifies a complication, she sends a text message with relevant patient data to the SijariEMAS system, which then automatically sends a message to the nearest hospital. Hospital staff review the message and assess whether they can accept the patient based on factors such as bed availability and blood supply within the hospital. If the answer is no, then the patient is routed to another hospital or is advised to stay at her current health center until health center staff receive further guidance from the hospital.

Currently, the SijariEMAS network includes more than 34,000 midwives and doctors and more than 1,400 facilities. Since September 2012, more than 50,000 referrals have been facilitated through the system.

While in Indonesia, I was able to see SijariEMAS in action during a demo held for government leaders. It was incredible to see first-hand how this simple text message technology could make such an extraordinary difference in improving maternal and neonatal mortality. I’ve taken this experience back with me to my work and life in the U.S. and can’t help but call it to mind every time I send a simple text message.

Kristin Manzolillo is a Senior Director within Pfizer’s Global Policy and International Public Affairs organization. In Kristin’s current position, she develops analyses on how changes in U.S. healthcare policy affect Pfizer, patients, providers and other stakeholders, which she uses to develop strategic recommendations. Outside of Pfizer, Kristin is a board member for the Community Healthcare Network, a not-for-profit agency that provides healthcare services to underserved communities throughout New York City.

From April through July 2016, Kristin served as a 2016 Global Health Fellow with Save the Children (STC)’s local affiliate, Yayasan Sayangi Tunas Cilik, in Jakarta, Indonesia. STC is the leading independent organization creating lasting change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world. While volunteering for STC, Kristin focused on STC’s advocacy program to promote equitable access to the five basic newborn immunizations for disadvantaged children.