A mobile health application to manage acute malnutrition: lessons from developing and piloting the app in five countries

Malnutrition is the world’s most serious health problem and the single biggest contributor to child mortality and the global burden of disease. Community based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) is a proven high-impact and cost-effective approach in the treatment of acute malnutrition in developing countries. It enables community health workers and volunteers to identify and initiate treatment for children with acute malnutrition before they become seriously ill, using ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF).
However, the success of CMAM is limited if treatment protocols are not followed, record keeping and data management is poor and reliable data is not available in time for decision makers. There is strong evidence that mobile device based (mHealth) applications can improve frontline health workers’ ability to apply CMAM treatment protocols more effectively and to improve the provision of supply chain management.
World Vision, together with implementing partners International Medical Corps and Save the Children and technical partner Dimagi, have developed a CMAM mHealth application (app) that guides health workers through CMAM protocols and provides accurate and timely data for district health managers to respond to changes in caseloads and treatment outcomes, manage supplies, and inform national statistics. The application was piloted in Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Afghanistan.
Key lessons from the pilot project, highlighted in this paper include that early and in-depth buy in from local ministries of health is essential to successful deployment, and plays a key role in scaling up and sustaining an mHealth initiative. Thorough technical landscape analysis, prior to deployment, of electricity provision and network coverage can greatly minimise delays and increase uptake. Finally, in order to continuously motivate and engage health workers to use the app, it is essential to secure regular onsite technical and software support, while also building local capacity for ongoing troubleshooting.