Field Experience in Maternal Health: Elena Chopyak Shares her Experience with Medic Mobile in Mali

Over the first three weeks of January, several Harvard School of Public Health graduate students took part in the Field Experience in Maternal Health winter session, organized by the Women and Health Initiative and the Maternal Health Task Force. In this blog post, Elena Chopyak writes about her field experience with Medic Mobile in Mali.

Written by: Elena Chopyak

It is widely known that the maternal mortality rate in Mali is grossly underestimated. However, current data collection methods fail to capture true mortality rates, especially in rural areas of the country. An mhealth project between the Malian Ministry of Health, UNFPA, L’Agence Nationale de Télésanté et d’Informatique Médicale (ANTIM), and Medic Mobile aims to collect more accurate data to better inform future initiatives targeting maternal deaths.

Thanks to support from ANTIM, I visited a number of pilot sites in Koulikoro and Segou with Ibrahim Kante, an ANTIM technician, and Hammadou Dia, a medical ANTIM intern. Our goal was to hear administrative and community health workers’ (CHW) experiences with the pilot to date so that their input can be incorporated into the project as it is scaled-up nationally.

In a roundtable discussion in the town of Bla, Dia and I posed questions about some of the preliminary advantages and challenges health administrators have encountered in their use of the mobile phones.

In a roundtable discussion in the town of Bla, Dia and I posed questions about some of the preliminary advantages and challenges health administrators have encountered in their use of the mobile phones.



Dia and I spoke to representatives from various districts and communities about the former/current demographic collection system, the shortcomings, and general aspirations for the mobile project. We also asked the CHWs involved in the pilot to share their experiences with the phones, including challenges they have had, if any, and their reflections on the training they received.

Despite some technical hiccups, unexpected advantages of the project are rapidly becoming apparent. Thanks to unlimited calling, CHWs and medical and administrative staff report that they communicate more frequently about villagers’ medical needs and concerns. A review of the data collected at the end of the month, and again at the end of each month of the three-month pilot phase will provide a clearer picture of the health of the project.

Even though the pilot phase is in its early stages, CHWs and administrators hope that the project will continue and will expand to include a wide range of health data collection.

When I wasn’t in the ANTIM office or visiting the pilot sites, I had the opportunity to enjoy some of the great live music Bamako has to offer. Serendipitously, I bumped into Habib Koité, one of my favorite Malian musicians, at the Centre Culturel francais de Bamako!

When I wasn’t in the ANTIM office or visiting the pilot sites, I had the opportunity to enjoy some of the great live music Bamako has to offer. Serendipitously, I bumped into Habib Koité, one of my favorite Malian musicians, at the Centre Culturel francais de Bamako!



To learn more about the Field Experience in Maternal Health winter session course, visit the course page here or check out a recent blog post about the course here.

Click here to learn about Medic Mobile’s work, supported by the MHTF, to develop three mobile tools for maternal health.