Digital Health Technologies for Maternal and Child Health in Africa and Other Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Cross-disciplinary Scoping Review With Stakeholder Consultation

Till, S and Mkhize, M and Farao, J and Shandu, LD and Muthelo, L and Coleman, T and Mbombi, M and Bopape, M and Klingberg, S and van Heerden, A and Mothiba, T and Densmore, M and Verdezoto Dias, NX and CoMACH Network, Group Author (2023) Digital Health Technologies for Maternal and Child Health in Africa and Other Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Cross-disciplinary Scoping Review With Stakeholder Consultation, J Med Internet Res, 25, JMIR Publications.

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Background: Maternal and child health (MCH) is a global health concern, especially impacting low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Digital health technologies are creating opportunities to address the social determinants of MCH by facilitating access to information and providing other forms of support throughout the maternity journey. Previous reviews in different disciplines have synthesized digital health intervention outcomes in LMIC. However, contributions in this space are scattered across publications in different disciplines and lack coherence in what digital MCH means across fields. Objective: This cross-disciplinary scoping review synthesized the existing published literature in 3 major disciplines on the use of digital health interventions for MCH in LMIC, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Methods: We conducted a scoping review using the 6-stage framework by Arksey and O'Malley across 3 disciplines, including public health, social sciences applied to health, and human-computer interaction research in health care. We searched the following databases: Scopus, PubMed, Google Scholar, ACM Digital Library, IEEE Xplore, Web of Science, and PLOS. A stakeholder consultation was undertaken to inform and validate the review. Results: During the search, 284 peer-reviewed articles were identified. After removing 41 duplicates, 141 articles met our inclusion criteria: 34 from social sciences applied to health, 58 from public health, and 49 from human-computer interaction research in health care. These articles were then tagged (labeled) by 3 researchers using a custom data extraction framework to obtain the findings. First, the scope of digital MCH was found to target health education (eg, breastfeeding and child nutrition), care and follow-up of health service use (to support community health workers), maternal mental health, and nutritional and health outcomes. These interventions included mobile apps, SMS text messaging, voice messaging, web-based applications, social media, movies and videos, and wearable or sensor-based devices. Second, we highlight key challenges: little attention has been given to understanding the lived experiences of the communities; key role players (eg, fathers, grandparents, and other family members) are often excluded; and many studies are designed considering nuclear families that do not represent the family structures of the local cultures. Conclusions: Digital MCH has shown steady growth in Africa and other LMIC settings. Unfortunately, the role of the community was negligible, as these interventions often do not include communities early and inclusively enough in the design process. We highlight key opportunities and sociotechnical challenges for digital MCH in LMIC, such as more affordable mobile data; better access to smartphones and wearable technologies; and the rise of custom-developed, culturally appropriate apps that are more suited to low-literacy users. We also focus on barriers such as an overreliance on text-based communications and the difficulty of MCH research and design to inform and translate into policy.

Item Type: Journal article (online only)
Uncontrolled Keywords: maternal health; child health; digital health; community; scoping review; low- and middle-income countries; LMIC; technology; co-design; mobile phone
Subjects: Human-centered computing > Human computer interaction (HCI)
Applied computing > Life and medical sciences > Health informatics
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Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2023 04:19
Last Modified: 22 Nov 2023 04:19

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