Giving Women a Voice in their Health

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Giving Women a Voice in their Health

Vicente Lopez, ArgentinaArgentina
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We intend to develop and provide innovative technological tools for any institution to improve performance and optimize their skills in health, emergency and development.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The decline in maternal mortality is far from the goal set by the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 (WHO Report 2012). A great number of women and babies die every year due to lack of access to proper care during and before birth. Prenatal care and care during the first days and weeks after birth could prevent at least 2/3 of infant deaths. Eighty percent of maternal deaths are preventable with the implementation of a set of proven interventions by qualified personnel. Many women, however, cannot access this care before it is too late. There are too few community health workers available to meet the demand. For many women in rural areas, they are more likely to be reached by a mobile phone signal than an outreach worker who could help connect them to lifesaving care.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our solution is to take clinical screening directly to pregnant women and new mothers via a mobile phone call. This system, Baby Monitor, which was developed by researchers at the Population Council, calls women at regular intervals before and after delivery. Women listen to screening questions recorded in their local language and respond by pressing keys on their phone. Baby Monitor evaluates the answers and, if necessary, sends information, makes referrals and dispatches medical help. Because the system can reference information from previous calls, Baby Monitor is able to ‘remember’ how a woman and her baby have been doing and follow-up. This can help to keep hard cases from falling through the cracks. When fully functional, the system should optimize the use of community health workers and improve health outcomes.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Baby Monitor screening calls are powered by InSTEDD’s open-source Interactive Voice Response platform called Verboice. Verboice has a simple web interface that allows users to develop interactive voice response applications like Baby Monitor without requiring programming knowledge or experience. It works with virtually any type of phone line and can be used anywhere in the world. Women only need a basic mobile phone that can receive incoming calls. No data plans or smartphones are required. In Kenya, where Baby Monitor is being piloted, as in many other countries, incoming calls are free, so women do not pay to use the service. When a woman answers a call from Baby Monitor, she hears prompts recorded in her local language. She responds to these questions by pressing keys on her phone’s keypad. The system logs her responses in a cloud database. The Baby Monitor team processes the data and takes action.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are a few other groups besides the Population Council who are developing and testing similar platforms. Most of these platforms are designed to help medical personnel and outreach workers do their jobs better. Those that do communicate directly with women tend to focus on 1-way communication; they push information and reminders to patients (e.g., health information, medication and appointment reminders). Baby Monitor is one of the first platforms to deliver a screening service directly to women. The Population Council’s rigorous research agenda for this m-health tool sets them apart.

Founding Story

The Population Council researcher who developed the idea for Baby Monitor says that the "aha!" moment came one day in his office while thinking about the challenge of delivering preventative and early intervention services to women in remote areas. He noted that there are too few outreach workers and the job is too big, and had the thought that many women are more likely to be reached by a mobile phone signal than a community health worker. This simple realization got him thinking that they could take screening and referral services directly to women. It made sense to him to create a personalized service for women that could get out ahead of frontline workers, identify women who need the most help, and coordinate care more effectively to make better use of the short supply of outreach workers. The InSTEDD “aha!” moment for Verboice came when we realized that for voice applications such as BabyMonitor to go mainstream we had to find a way of making it really simple for anybody to scale.
About You
InSTEDD iLan America Latina
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

InSTEDD iLan America Latina

Organization Country

, B, Vicente Lopez

Country where this project is creating social impact
Age of Innovator


Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

Citizen Media: A Global Innovation Competition competition, done by Changemakers
MIPP Grant Application: Mobile based solution for support of routine immunization uptake in Latin America, done by Merck

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for less than a year

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two

Quality, Equity.

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to better the lives of girls and women by leveraging technology? (select all applicable)

Access to health care.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

In the first year of formative research, the Population Council has been working with Jacaranda Health in Nairobi, Kenya to establish that the screening tool is reliable and valid. To do this, they are delivering screening calls to 95 women at several points before and after delivery. One day after each call, women participate in a clinical screening with a live nurse, thus providing a ‘gold-standard’ comparison.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

The next step is to test the impact of Baby Monitor on health system and patient outcomes. The research team at the Population Council is also eager to see additional features added to Verboice that will improve and expand Baby Monitor. If successful, this proposal would support InSTEDD to develop these features that, in addition to helping to improve Baby Monitor, would be available to anyone who wants to use Verboice as an IVR solution.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Though our tool is flexible enough to support any sort of screening process, we have had a very specific experience so far. We have to make sure that different contexts and needs are also viable with Verboice. For that, we will incorporate feedback from different partners and organization we work with.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

We want to add support for the following:

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Ability to translate audio messages and maintain a multi-language screening

Task 2

Ability to send SMS to women after certain steps

Task 3

Ability for the woman to trigger a call by flashing the system or sending an SMS

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

These are the milestones

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

We want to add capabilities to the system to simplify the management of follow-up action

Task 2

The system would use the call results to trigger SMS to the clinic and to the health workers

Task 3
Tell us about your partnerships

We have developed this project with contributions from PopCouncil and Grameen. We have several partnerships in Latin America

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

Besides financial support to improve the tool in areas we have already identified, we could use a lot of help in getting a better understanding of needs in different scenarios and contexts. Support in spreading the idea and getting adoption could also be very helpful.