Skip to main content


Log in

Special Delivery: An Analysis of mHealth in Maternal and Newborn Health Programs and Their Outcomes Around the World

  • Published:
Maternal and Child Health Journal Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Mobile health (mHealth) encompasses the use of mobile telecommunication and multimedia into increasingly mobile and wireless health care delivery systems and has the potential to improve tens of thousands of lives each year. The ubiquity and penetration of mobile phones presents the opportunity to leverage mHealth for maternal and newborn care, particularly in under-resourced health ecosystems. Moreover, the slow progress and funding constraints in attaining the Millennium Development Goals for child and maternal health encourage harnessing innovative measures, such as mHealth, to address these public health priorities. This literature review provides a schematic overview of the outcomes, barriers, and strategies of integrating mHealth to improve prenatal and neonatal health outcomes. Six electronic databases were methodically searched using predetermined search terms. Retrieved articles were then categorized according to themes identified in previous studies. A total of 34 articles and reports contributed to the findings with information about the use and limitations of mHealth for prenatal and neonatal healthcare access and delivery. Health systems have implemented mHealth programs to facilitate emergency medical responses, point-of-care support, health promotion and data collection. However, the policy infrastructure for funding, coordinating and guiding the sustainable adoption of prenatal and neonatal mHealth services remains under-developed. The integration of mobile health for prenatal and newborn health services has demonstrated positive outcomes, but the sustainability and scalability of operations requires further feedback from and evaluation of ongoing programs.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. International Telecommunications Union. (2010). ICT facts and figures: The world in 2010. Geneva: International Telecommunications Union.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Vital Wave Consulting. (2008). mHealth in the global south: Landscape analysis. Washington, D.C. and Berkshire, UK: Vodafone Foundation—United Nations Foundations Partnership.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Sloninsky, D., & Mechael, P. (2008). Towards the development of an mhealth strategy: A literary review. New York, USA: World Health Organization and Earth Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Consulting, Vital. Wave. (2009). mHealth for development: The opportunity of mobile technology for healthcare in the developing world. Washington, D.C. and Berkshire, UK: UN Foundation-Vodafone Foundation Partnership.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Labrique, A. (2010) Maternal and neonatal health: opportunities and challenges for mHealth in resource-limited settings. [Internet]. Washington D.C.: Maternal Health Policy Series [cited 2010 Dec 10]. Available from:

  6. Chetley, A. (2006). Improving health, connecting people: The role of ICTs in the health sector of developing countries. In InfoDev (Ed.). Washington, DC: World Bank.

  7. Mechael, P., & Dodowa Health Resarch Center. (2009). MoTech: mHealth ethnography report. New York: Grameen Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Mechael, P. (2009). The case for mhealth in developing countries. Innovations (pp. 103–118),Winter.

  9. Akter, S., & Ray, P. (2010). mHealth an ultimate platform to serve the unserved. IMIA Yearbook of Medical Informatics, 10, 94–100.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Curioso, W., & Mechael, P. (2010). Enhancing ‘m-health’ with south-to-south collaborations. Health Affairs, 29(2), 264–267.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. World Health Organization. (2010).WHO statistical information system. Available at: Accessed December 10, 2010.

  12. Mechael, P., Batavia, H., Kaonga, N., Searle, S., Kwan, A., & Goldberger, A. (2010). Barriers and gaps affecting mhealth in low and middle income countries: Policy white paper. New York: Earth Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Ganapathy K, Ravindra A (2008) mHealth: a potential tool for health care delivery in India. [Internet]. Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio, Italy [cited 2010 December 10]. Available from:

  14. Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, Child Health, University of Aberdeen. (2010). Sharing knowledge for action on maternal, newborn and child health. Geneva, Switzerland: PMNCH.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Moahi, K. (2009). ICT and health information in Botswana: Towards the millenium development goals. Information Development, 25(3), 198–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Rao, S. (2009). Achieving the millenium development goals: Role of ICTs innovation in India. Telematics and Informatics, 26(2), 127–143.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Lu, M., Kotelchuck, M., Hogan, V., Johnson, K., & Reyes, C. (2009). Innovative strategies to reduce disparities in the quality of prenatal care in underresourced settings. Medical Care Research and Review, 67(5), 198–230.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Mechael, P. (2005). Mobile phones for the promotion of maternal and child health in developing countries (an Egyptian case study). ICT4D, 1–4.

  19. Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization. (2008). Assessement of M-content reqiurements in India and Uganda. Stockholm, Sweden: Ericsson.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Cole-Ceesay, R., Cherian, M., Sonko, A., Shivute, N., Cham, M., & Davis, M. (2010). Strengthening the emergency healthcare system for mothers and children in the Gambia. Reproductive Health Journal, 7(21), 1–10.

    Google Scholar 

  21. GSMA Development Fund. (2008). Lady health workers. London, United Kingdom: GSMA Development Fund.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Musoke M (2002). Maternal health care in rural Uganda: leveraging traditional and modern knowledge systems. Indigenous Knowledge Notes 1–4.

  23. Research, Microsoft. (2007). Healthline offers speech-based access to medical information. Pittsburgh: Microsoft Corporation.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Chib, A., Lwin, M. O., Ang, J., Lin, H., & Santoso, F. (2008). Midwives and mobiles: Using ICTs to improve healthcare in Aceh Besar, Indonesia. Asian Journal of Communication, 18(4), 248–364.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Lund S and Hemed M (2010) Wired mothers: use of mobile phones to improve maternal and neonatal health in Zanzibar. [Internet]. Copenhagen: University of Copenhagen [cited 2010 Dec 10]. Available from:

  26. EF, U. N. I. C. (2005). Maternal and perinatal death inquiry and response: Empowering communities to avert maternal deaths in India. Geneva, Switzerland: UNICEF.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Chib, A. (2010). The Aceh Besar midwives with mobile phones program: Design and evaluation perspectives using the information and communcation technologies for healthcare model. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 15, 500–525.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Chan, C., & Kaufman, D. (2010). A technology selection framework for supporting delivery of patient-oriented health interventions in developing countries. Journal of Biomedical Informatics, 43(2), 300–306.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Kaewkungwal, J., Singhasivanon, P., Khamsiriwatchara, A., Sawang, S., Meankaew, P., & Wechsart, A. (2010). Application of smart phone in “better border healthcare program”: A module for mother and child care. Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 10(69), 1–12.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Jareethum, R., Titapant, V., Tienthai, C., Vibonchart, S., Chuenwattana, P., & Chatchainoppakhun, J. (2008). Satisfaction of healthy pregnant women receiving short message service via mobile phone for prenatal support: A randomized controlled trial. Journal Medical Association Thai, 91(4), 458–463.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Ivatury, G., Moore, J., & Bloch, A. (2009). A doctor in your pocket: health hotlines in developing countries. London, United Kingdom: GSMA Development Fund.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Aylward, D. (2010) mHealth and maternal continuum of care. [Internet]. Washington D.C.: mHealth Alliance [cited 2010 Dec 10]. Available from

  33. Asangansi, I., & Braa, K. (2010). The emergence of mobile-supported national health information systems in developing countries. Studies in Health Technology Informatics, 160(1), 540–544.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Istepanian, R. (2004). Introduction to the special section on m-health: beyond seamless mobility and global wireless health-care connectivity. IEEE Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine, 8(4), 405–413.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Kuhn, K., Warren, J. R., Leong, T. (Eds.) (2005) A framework for delivering m-health excellence. eintegration in action. In: 18th Bled eConference:eIntegration in action June 6–8. Bled, Slovenia: IOS Press.

  36. Mechael, P. (2008). mHealth in the millennium village project. New York: Earth Institute.

    Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors would like to thank the HIT Lab team, including Ilene Hollin and Annie Alley, who were involved in the editing of the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Tigest Tamrat or Stan Kachnowski.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Tamrat, T., Kachnowski, S. Special Delivery: An Analysis of mHealth in Maternal and Newborn Health Programs and Their Outcomes Around the World. Matern Child Health J 16, 1092–1101 (2012).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: