SPOTLIGHT: Medic Mobile & Hope Phones

One of the inspirational people I got to meet during the UN Foundation’s Social Good Fellowship was the amazing Josh Nesbit.  He is CEO of Medic Mobile and little did I know, founder of, an organization that I have been thrilled to donate all those old useless cellphones in my home over the last couple of years.

MedicMobileSMS-smI liked him from the minute I met him, his enthusiasm and energy was infectious.  I really connected with his story. Maybe it was that medical background connection, or the organic nature in which he evolved to be where he is today, just like myself… but it felt like we were kindred spirits.  On his path to med school, during a volunteer trip to Malawi, he was inspired by volunteer village health workers, and committed himself to serving a global community.   Starting with just a few students at Stanford and Lewis & Clark, they started using a free software application called FrontlineSMS to coordinate community health workers at St Gabriel’s Hospital.  They realized that they could use technology to improve health care in very challenging settings and so became Medic Mobile.

As you read in my spotlight on MAMAGlobal, 3 out 4 people have access to a mobile phone globally.  As Josh, shockingly noticed, even in rural areas, sometimes his mobile connection was better and more reliable than the service he’d get here in NYC.  Josh saw a real opportunity here to use mobile technology to help build a better future for the community they were serving.  While they are constantly adapting and making sure they are maximizing their impact, there are a few key high impact areas where you can really see the fruits of their labor.

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Getting People Into Care: Remote Patient Registration and Danger Sign Monitoring
Using our tools, a community health worker in a rural setting can now enroll a pregnant mother or a newborn baby into essential services, continuously monitor and report on their condition, notify clinics of observed danger signs, and receive advice and assistance. This real-time data and feedback draws previously disconnected villages into the system of care.

Helping People Stay in Care: Notifications for Antenatal Care (ANC) and Immunizations
Preliminary data from a Medic Mobile project in India has shown an increase in immunization coverage by more than 20% by sending mothers an SMS notification when their children were due for vaccination. We’re extending this use case to include the four recommended ANC visits for pregnant mothers in India, Kenya, and Nepal.

Improving the Quality of Care: Stock Monitoring and Data Collection
In many of the places we work, getting to the clinic is only half the battle. Imagine reaching a clinic only to discover that it is out of stock for the essential supplies that you need. Our tools have been deployed to help districts manage the stock levels at rural outposts and respond faster when supplies are low. We’re currently supporting the pilot of a device to monitor temperature-sensitive vaccines. When the temperature rises above a certain level, a facility manager is notified.


hopephonesSo here’s the part I love.  What can us, little people (like little ol’ me sitting on bed rest), DO?  Josh and his team, started Hope Phones in 2009 as an innovative way to fund the global efforts of Medic Mobile. With over half a million cell phones discarded in the United States every day (my last donation was 5 dead cellphones lying around the house) and polluting the environment with tons of plastic and persistent toxins like lead, nickel, beryllium, and cadmium we can recycle cell phones.  You and I can DONATE a phone, start a COLLECTION, or DONATE funds and SPREAD the word.

When you recycle a used mobile through Hope Phones, their recycling partner transfers the value of your phone so they can acquire appropriate new technology for the field. The current average value per used phone is $5.00, but smartphones are regularly valued at $80.00.  Did I mention they don’t even have to be working phones? or have all the chargers & batteries? Recycling just 1% of disposed phones each year, Medic Mobile can outfit 1 million health workers, improving the lives of 50 million people, making real world health impact.  I just learned they they have a partnership with another favorite organization of mine, Every Mother Counts, where phones donated on their behalf will fund efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the maternal mortality rate is 950 per 100,000 live births (CARE).  You can download a special label specifically for Every Mother Counts.

So the big question at the end was, is Josh Nesbit a doctor?  No.  But something tells me he is doing so much more for the world with Medic Mobile than he would have done as a doctor.