mHealth Summit 2010: Patricia Mechael’s pearls of wisdom

This is the one of a series of posts on the recent 2010 mHealth summit. Other posts include an overviewmHealth is not about technology, mHealth and the evidence, mHealth in western vs global contexts and notable tweets.

Patricia Mechael, a panelist at the Lessons Learned Across the Globe panel shared ten lessons learned from pioneers in mHealth à la David Letterman’s Top 10 format. These were practical, concisely put and audibly resonated with the audience.   

10: We must unpack the pathways to mobile mediated behavour change: selling texts doesn’t mean that people will do things differently. Needless to say, behaviour change is very complex and exposure to information is only the first step in the continuum that results in action. Cultural context is particularly important and often overlooked.

9: Locally generated content – content from developed countries may not be meaningful to expectant women in Africa. It is also essential to adapt material for optimal mobile delivery which requires careful thought and execution.

8: Move away from focus on user satisfaction and evaluate impact of health outcomes ; set targets and bench marks. This is interesting as it implies that an intervention may have value in the user’s view but not demonstrate impact on health outcomes. Why not shoot for both? I would argue that user acceptance is important too.

7: Be realistic as there is a risk of overhype: focus on what works. Clearly there is a danger of expecting too much from mobile technology and overlooking other key determinants of behavioural change.

6: Invest in participatory design processes and involve users who will be affected, work flow; invest in local development and strategists…who will continue to modify and adopt the technology.

5: Take a systems approach: rather than single issue implementation, address other adjacent issues. Health is very much a multi-sectoral field that demands a multi-dimensional systemic response.

4: Collaboration is more fun than competition; not survival of the fittest. This is very instructive as in the global development field, organizations tend to work in parallel as they compete for a limited pot of donor funding.

3: Recycle, reuse and repurpose. Of course, it makes sense to share lessons learned, build on and replicate successful models and avoid reinventing the wheel.  The Health Unbound Forum (HUB) hosted by the mHealth Alliance and others, is a newly created forum that “aggregates health content, facilitates idea exchange, and creates community between the diverse constituencies that can benefit from, and improve access to, health information and care.” Secondly, the AHRQ Health Care Innovations Exchange offers an avenue for health care professionals and researchers to share, learn about, and adopt evidence-based innovations.

2: mHealth at scale, link technology to priorities, identify the best tools to address these priorities. Build on the strengths and contributions of private public partnerships. It takes a wide range of players to  needs to accomplish progress in the mHealth field as well demonstrated by the text4baby program.

1: It is not about technology – there are no killer apps, there is room for all the initiatives underway. We’re all impacted by these systems.


Patricia Mechael should know as she has worked on mHealth initiatives since 2001 with a broad range of
institutions beginning in 2001. She has worked on the  Millenium Villages Project at the Earth Institute, Columbia University.  I first learned about her work from the landmark  Motech Ethnography mHealth Report research into the potential of mobile phone applications to improve maternal health in Ghana.

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One Comment on “mHealth Summit 2010: Patricia Mechael’s pearls of wisdom”


  1. […] of posts on the recent mHealth Summit. Previous posts include an overview, Patricia Mechel’s pearls of mHealth wisdom, mHealth is not about technology, mHealth and the evidence and notable […]


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