Today’s post comes from Paloma Luisi, HIT Lab research associate, who took her first field visit to Accra, Ghana last month. Along with Professor Stan Kachnowski, Luisi is heading up the HIT Lab’s evaluation of MOTECH mobile health (mHealth) initiative.

At the first rest stop on the way to the district health offices outside of Accra, I knew we were in for a treat. Local politics were blaring over the radio, fufu, tilapia, and the ubiquitous jellof rice were being ordered and we were getting down to the business of planning the evaluation of Mobile Technology for Community Health (MOTECH). MOTECH uses mobile phone technology to improve maternal and child health knowledge and health-seeking behavior in rural Ghana.

The team included our esteemed partners from the University of Ghana’s School of Public Health and representatives from Grameen Foundation, one of MOTECH’s key stakeholders. Our goal was to spend a week executing on study protocol by resolving real-world issues of site selection, data collection, and implementation of the intervention. We made site visits to the directors of both districts selected for inclusion in the study, which are located outside of Accra. The drive and time spent beyond the city limits distinctly illuminated the urban-rural divide in Ghana. The study team was greeted with enthusiasm and interest in the villages, where we had time to stop and gladly fulfill many requests for handshakes and photos! We were also lucky enough to drive through one village during market day and see the incredible quantity and diversity of items being sold from stands, stores, and from vendors walking between cars.

The University of Ghana School of Public Health served as a wonderful host and provided space to work throughout the trip. During our stay, the University hosted two seminars with researchers from America. First, Dr. Rodger Glass, director of the National Institutes of Health's Fogarty International Center, gave a lecture about the current status of United States investment in global health projects and the exciting research and discoveries that have come through globally framed research. He ended the talk with a call for innovation and scaling of some of the newest health technologies to meet the needs of the developing world.

Professor Kachnowski met Dr. Glass' call and delivered a lecture about the new mHealth economy with compelling examples of how new technologies have improved healthcare and their potential for further impact. The week closed with final discussions on the study protocol and next steps for implementation with the entire team of stakeholders.

The HITLAB is thrilled to be a part of this evaluation in coordination with the School of Public Health and pleased to be working closely with Grameen Foundation and the Ghana Health Service.