mothers2mothers (m2m) is excited to announce the official launch of our new Virtual Mentor Mother Platform (VMMP) today. In his latest update on m2m’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, President & Chief Executive Officer, Frank Beadle de Palomo, explains how this addition to our range of eServices will help new and existing m2m client receive vital health information and service referrals during this health crisis and beyond. To read the press release, click here.
“In my community, information about health issues like HIV, AIDS, and COVID-19 is not always easily available because we are under-resourced, with few educational facilities and high unemployment, which has become even worse with the pandemic. Most people don’t have easy access to things like the internet, and the information they get is not detailed and sometimes is not accurate,” says Sarah Polo, a mothers2mothers (m2m) Community Mentor Mother in Mathare North, an extremely poor community in Nairobi, Kenya.
The spread and impact of COVID-19 across the African continent has been accompanied by widespread fear and confusion. Accurate information about the coronavirus has not been accessible to everyone, leaving many uncertain about its symptoms, how it spreads, and how best to protect themselves. This is a stark reminder of the early days of the HIV pandemic that devastated many African communities. To make matters worse, COVID-19 has put more strain on under-resourced and understaffed African health systems, while at the same time full or partial lockdowns have made it difficult for people to access health services.
Tech for Good
It is against this backdrop that m2m accelerated the development of the Virtual Mentor Mother Platform (VMMP). I am excited to share with you that the platform is officially launching today in a major milestone for us. The VMMP is a new, interactive tool run on the messaging platform WhatsApp, that enables users in nine countries, where we operate, to access vital health information and service referrals on COVID-19 and other health topics from a trusted source at their convenience, and in their preferred language, and which they can easily share with family and friends. (The VMMP makes it possible for anyone with access to a smartphone and the internet to access health education and risk-reduction information.)
For the first phase of the VMMP, m2m has translated and adapted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 education and prevention messages into over 30 languages. As far as we are aware, this is the first time important COVID-19 information is available in such a widely available format as WhatsApp in many of these languages, which means that millions of Africans will now have access to this vital health information as COVID-19 continues to affect communities across the continent.
In October, we will add more content in key health areas such as HIV prevention and treatment, maternal health, early childhood development, and non-communicable diseases.
Complementing m2m’s Services
Of course, we know technology is not a silver bullet. The VMMP is now a part of m2m’s differentiated service delivery range, which will continue to include in-person and phone services provided by the nearly 1,700 women we employ as frontline health workers—especially for those most at risk, and those not yet connected to the Internet. We are also using this technology for our teams—in each country, there is a dedicated, interactive WhatsApp line for staff, which makes it possible for us to rapidly share information, training, and key updates.
The VMMP, which is an integral component of our emergency COVID-19 response for clients and staff, is also a critical tool for m2m in our everyday work to make healthcare more accessible, retain clients in care, and support clients to adhere to treatment and regimens. It is widely acknowledged that technology is essential in global efforts to turn the vision of universal health coverage into reality, especially with half of the world’s population unable to access healthcare even in normal times. As a tool that is easy to share, the VMMP’s ripple effect of providing accessible, interactive information and lifesaving health education will be hugely exciting and a significant step towards ensuring health for all.
According to Sarah, the VMMP is already making a difference in her Kenyan community. “It makes our clients’ lives easier because they can access key health information faster and the information is credible. Some people have dropped their guard about COVID-19 and are starting to ignore important health protocols, but the VMMP is there to always remind and educate them. It is going to save a lot of lives by giving people the information they need to make better choices and stay healthy.”