"I can’t wait to use Mobile
Kunji to counsel pregnant women, mothers and families in my village," Jharana
Maharang told me as she cradled a deck of Mobile Kunji cards in her hands.
Twenty-eight-year-old Jharana is
an ASHA which stands for Accredited Social Health Activist but also means 'hope' in Hindi.
On 23 February, she left her
village in Sundergarh district in the eastern Indian state of Odisha to attend
the launch of our latest mobile health project in India.
mHealth in action
Jharana, along with 29 other ASHAs from her district, were in the city
of Rourkela to be presented with Mobile Kunji, an audio-visual aid that helps health workers to interact with families. It is made up of an interactive voice-response-based
mobile service and a printed deck of cards.
The Chief Minister of Odisha Mr Naveen Patnaik presents each health worker with a deck of Mobile Kunji cards.
Each card – designed to look
like a mobile phone and held together on a ring – illustrates a key health
lesson and also has a unique mobile phone shortcode printed on it.
When a health worker dials the
number on their mobile phone, they can play a health message to the family they
are visiting, voiced by a friendly but persuasive character called Dr Anita.
"Though we try to
counsel women, many times we aren’t always able to persuade them," another ASHA,
Mamata Behera, from the district of Khurda told me. "It's as if they are just listening and not hearing," she said.
But with a tool
like Mobile Kunji, she said, that will change. It not only builds the health
workers' skills and confidence but also helps to engage and convince the family
- "especially when Dr Anita speaks to them directly over the phone," Mamata
in Odisha is the third highest in India and the death rates for mothers and
children under five are higher than the national average.
The tragedy is
that most of these deaths are preventable. Frontline health workers like
Jharana and Mamata who regularly visit pregnant women and their families play a
critical role in delivering life-saving information, accurately and on time.
In addition to
Mobile Kunji, BBC Media Action has developed an audio-based training course called
Mobile Academy, delivered to health workers through their mobile phones. Call charges and training costs are paid for by the Odisha
government and we’re working with them to roll out the course to 55,000
health workers across all 33 districts of Odisha.
the phone numbers seem like calling up a magic number, which will give valuable
information free of cost to both us and the community," said Basanti Nayak, an
ASHA who was part of the training.
Odisha is the second state in India to be
introduced to Mobile Kunji and Mobile Academy. In 2012, BBC Media Action introduced
the two services in Bihar, in northern India where 42,362 health workers have
been trained and 5.7 million minutes of Mobile Kunji recordings have been accessed.
We can't wait to see how they’ll be used
in Odisha – watch this space.