Author: Ankita Sukheja, September 6 2015 - There’s palpable excitement as government officials and health experts gather in a hospital hall in Uttar Pradesh to welcome a very special guest. There's chatter about a certain Daktrani ('lady doctor' in Hindi) and a new mobile phone health service.

Dr Anita

The VIP everyone’s waiting for is BBC Media Action’s very own Dr Anita, a fictional doctor who’s ‘travelled’ to Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s most populous states, for the launch of Mobile Academy and Mobile Kunji - two award winning mHealth (mobile health) services.

Mobile Academy is a training course for frontline health workers that’s delivered on a mobile phone using the voice of a Dr Anita via Interactive Voice Response (IVR) - a technology that can be accessed from any mobile handset. Training can therefore take place anywhere, any time and at the fraction of the cost of face-to-face activities.

Once trained, they can deliver Mobile Kunji, which means ‘guide’ or ‘key’ in Hindi. It uses the same technology and an illustrated deck of cards. Each card has a code, which when put into the phone, activates Dr Anita’s voice as she guides families through advice covering family planning and breastfeeding and other topics. She can even deliver lessons in local languages and dialects.

Training 1.5 million health workers

As we introduce the service, there’s a sense of pride in our hearts. It’s BBC Media Action’s biggest project in India yet, with Dr Anita set to train 1.5 million frontline health workers across Uttar Pradesh over the next few years. A feeling of satisfaction and achievement washed over us as we answered questions from the audience. Many months of hard work were finally paying off.

The journey to Uttar Pradesh from Bihar, where Mobile Academy and Mobile Kunji have been running successfully for over four years now, wasn’t easy. To get this mammoth exercise off the ground, our team has navigated a maze of regulations, moving deadlines and the logistical challenges of providing training to over a million health workers across a huge geographical area.

It all seemed worth it as the excitement in the room grew - there were smiles, laughs and a sense of ownership.

Hitting the right pitch

As we finished the launch and headed back to our offices, we reminisced about the team’s (and Dr Anita’s) journey to Uttar Pradesh. Much work had been done to understand the differences in the dialects of the eastern and western parts of the state; using the right kind of words; hitting the right pitch and accents in production; and ploughing through several drafts of the final training module.

Our heads were already filled with thoughts about our upcoming training sessions. In the coming weeks, the project will reach out to tens of thousands of health workers who work day and night in difficult conditions and remote areas to help young pregnant women and their families deliver healthy babies.

As always, Dr Anita will be guiding the way.
Click here to access this BBC Media Action blog and related links on their work in India.
Image credit/caption: BBC Media Action, we introduce Dr Anita, a fictional character who’s ‘travelled’ to Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s most populous states, for the launch of Mobile Academy and Mobile Kunji....

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