Muhajarine, former student head up mobile phone health project in Vietnam

May 8, 2013

Cell phones are a nearly ubiquitous, essential means of communication in countries such as Vietnam, as they are cheap and require little infrastructure compared with land lines.

With that in mind, Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine and Dr. Lan Vu, head of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Hanoi School of Public Health and a former student of Dr. Muhajarine’s, are heading up a project to use the technology to improve health information and health outcomes for migrant workers in the country.

Dr. Nazeem Muharine featured in the StarPhoenix.
Dr. Nazeem Muharine featured in the StarPhoenix.
The project, mHealth information for migrants: A pilot project to increase health information accessibility for migrants in Vietnam, was the subject of a recent StarPhoenix article. The piece followed in the wake of the tragic factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed hundreds of garment workers.

The mHealth project sets out to improve the life and health of workers that leave rural areas of Vietnam to find work in the cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Between 1989 and 2009, the flow of migrant workers within the country increased from 1.3 million to 3.4 million, and could top 6 million by 2019. Many of these workers are poor and have limited access to information concerning sexual health risks and other health information. As Muhajarine told the StarPhoenix, "These are marginalized people. They're seen as outsiders and are tolerated but not welcome."

Grand Challenges Canada, a federally funded organization, is providing a $100,000 grant for the mHealth for Migrants program, which uses mobile phone text messaging to provide reliable, low-cost health information to the migrant workers. The text messages cost next to nothing and can provide information about reproductive health and other issues for the female workers.

The research team will track the program over eight months, and with the participation of the Vietnamese government, the hope is to expand mHealth for Migrants to more areas of the country.


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