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SMARThealth Pregnancy: Improving lifelong health for women in rural India

SMARThealth Pregnancy is a community-based intervention to reduce the number of women developing heart disease in rural India. Using mobile technology, it aims to help community health workers identify women at risk and manage their healthcare in order to improve their life-long health. In time, it could be rolled out to other countries around the world with similar healthcare challenges.

Non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, are the leading cause of premature death in women worldwide. Around the world, 18 million women die from non-communicable diseases every year and 8.6 million of these deaths are from heart disease, with the greatest number occurring in low-resource settings. 

Identifying women at risk

Both type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are directly linked to heart disease, but many women in rural India are unaware of this and never seek treatment.

Some of those at greatest risk are women who develop diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy. Although these are well-known complications of pregnancy, women in rural India who experience them may not always be identified, due to a lack of access to healthcare, shortages of health workers, and uneven health services in rural communities. This means women at risk are unable to access postnatal preventive therapies or make positive lifestyle changes.

Using smartphone technology

Antenatal care presents an opportunity to engage with women and check whether they have conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. If they do then measures can be put in place to help prevent them developing heart disease (and also stroke and diabetes) in future. The George Institute, UK at the University of Oxford in collaboration with The George Institute, India is developing a smartphone-based system to help community health workers do this.

Mobile technologies have the potential to revolutionise the delivery of healthcare, especially in rural populations where the majority of care is delivered by low-skilled, community health workers. The George Institute has already developed and implemented SMARThealth: a low-cost, smartphone-based system that supports clinical decision-making and improves the screening, detection and management of adults with chronic diseases in India. 

With the participation of community health workers, The George Institute intends to adapt the SMARThealth system for antenatal and postnatal care, and train community healthcare workers and primary care doctors to use it. We will then evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of the platform to support frontline health workers to identify and manage the care of pregnant women at high risk of future heart disease and ensure their life-long health.

Integrating care to promote life-long health

Recognising the importance of pregnancy as a key life stage for women’s health, and identifying and managing the risk factors for heart disease early, will reduce the number of women in rural India who go on to develop heart disease, stroke and diabetes in later life. It will also help to reduce the complications associated with high blood pressure and diabetes during pregnancy, which will have immediate benefits both mothers and their babies. 

How you can help

Our vision is to halt the growing tide of non-communicable diseases in disadvantaged communities and improve the life-long health of millions of women. We are seeking philanthropic support for SMARThealth Pregnancy to realise this vision.