The developers of an open source tool that enables remote health workers to send text and images via mobile phone for rapid diagnosis and treatment recommendations has won the first mHealth Alliance Award. Sana, previously called MocaMobile, was selected for both the mHealth Alliance Award and the Vodafone Americas Foundation’s 3rd place prize for its Wireless Innovation Project, to be awarded during a gala dinner this evening at the Global Philanthropy Forum in Redwood City, California.

Sana addresses the limited reach of specialists who, especially in the developing world, often are accessible only in a few large cities. For health workers outside of major urban areas, Sana supports remote diagnosis by medical specialists via mobile devices.

“We selected Sana for the mHealth Alliance Award because of its proven potential to connect remote health workers with medical professionals, supporting the delivery of quality care to the furthest reaches of wireless communications,” said David Aylward, Executive Director of the mHealth Alliance.

Initially designed to facilitate scaling of cervical cancer screening in Zambia, Sana evolved into providing a generic customizable platform similar to OpenMRS. The Sana team, based out of MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is in discussions with partner organizations in the Philippines, India, Mexico, Taiwan and North Carolina. It supports running the IMCI protocol – standardized procedures developed by the World Health Organization and UNICEF for diagnosis and treatment of childhood diseases – on mobile phones, enabling remote health workers with mobile phones to effectively treat and prevent childhood illnesses.

“We are driven by the belief that health care systems can be improved with low cost health information technology, but that technology alone is not sufficient,” said Dr. Trishan Panch, strategy lead for Sana. The team is developing the Sana Lab, a course taught at MIT and disseminated freely by distance learning to partners both domestically and internationally.

“Our aim for this course is to build leadership capacity through sharing our experiences in analyzing health care needs in developing countries, creating solutions and overcoming contextual factors that limit the impact of health information technology,” Dr. Panch said.

The combined award value of $150,000 includes $100,000 for the Wireless Innovation Project 3rd prize and benefits totaling $50,000 for the mHealth Alliance Award, including participation in Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society’s Global Social Benefit Incubator Program (GSBI). The GSBI is a highly competitive program that connects innovators with a Silicon Valley support network and provides instruction on how to achieve maximum sustainability and impact in social enterprises.

As part of the Vodafone Americas Foundation’s 2010 Wireless Innovation Project, the mHealth Alliance Award was open to U.S.-based non-profit developers of innovative wireless technologies with the most potential to address critical health challenges, especially in developing regions.

 

Adele Waugaman directs the UN Foundation & Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership and manages communications for the mHealth Alliance.

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