Project Everest

Work Update

[Work Update]: Health Malawi - Expanding our mHealth services to incorporate mental health - July 2018

Akshin Goswami
Akshin Goswami | Jul 26, 2018 | in Knowledge Base

During a visit to Nancholi, where we tested the usability of the sandbox prototype, one interviewee mentioned that he had trouble sleeping at night. This led to my realisation that our system does not cater for users who may be experiencing mental health problems. Expanding the current system to incorporate this may prove to be beneficial.

Why provide mental health care to a developing population?

The white paper attached states that currently the proportion of people aged 65 years and older is at 11.5%. This will increase to 24% by the year 2050. As a population becomes older, this infers an increase in the quality of physical health care and will lead to an increased demand in mental health care. Moreover, older people tend to be more greatly affected by "feelings of loss or loneliness".

Why use mHealth to provide this service?

Problems that exist with providing traditional mental health services include:

  • Time and money taken to train counselors and other professionals
  • travel time regarding seeing said professional
  • low mental health literacy will likely mean individuals will not go to seek professional help anyway

A mHealth platform could mitigate these problems by:

  • providing access to professional help in remote areas
  • offer the service at a reasonable price (some scaleable mHealth solutions already exist which could be implemented)
  • educate users through text messages and eliminate stigma around mental health

Strategies in implementing mental health care in our system

(Note: this has been taken from the white paper attached)

Mental Health Priorities


Relevant mHealth strategies

Public Education

• Promoting active aging – regular exercise, planning for lifestyle changes such as retirement, seeking support following bereavement, pursuing a range of interests

• Promoting public and media awareness of aging and mental health issues and educating the public

• Challenging discrimination

• Text messages, games or quizzes to send information  on better dietary habits and encouraging exercise

• Text messages or quizzes to eliminate falsehoods surrounding mental disorders and break down stigma associated with mental health and aging

• Accessing information on the Internet or through  hotlines

• Connecting other adults or caregivers in applications or social networks to reduce social isolation and impacts of loss or to encourage active participation in communities

Security Promotion

• Improving economic opportunities, including opportunities for older people

• Providing social protection, including basic pensions for older people

• Developing mechanisms to  resolve conflict and reduce levels of violence

• Providing patients or caregivers mobile health tips to integrate individuals with mental illnesses into society

• In-between psychotherapy sessions transferred through voice calls or text messaging

• Mobile options to facilitate or connect individuals with work options and job support

edited on 6th September 2018, 02:09 by Justin Hakeem

Michael Sutton Jul 26, 2018

This is good but a method outlining how this might be implemented would be outstanding

Reply 1

Adriana Makaroff Jul 26, 2018

This is a good idea, however would need to be tested in a Malawian context as elderly individuals may fall under a younger category. A sense of loneliness also needs to be tested as it is already known from my understanding, that majority of families in Malawi do care for the elderly members of their families, thus they may not feel lonely in this case. Although these are my assumptions, I think this idea may be feasible in the future.

Reply 2

Akshin Goswami Jul 26, 2018

That's a good point, i think we'll have to do some more usability testing to gauge the viability of this idea.

Reply 1

Naomi Boulton Jul 26, 2018

This is sick! Do you think we could incorporate some of those ideas using the USSD system? Or do you think that the mHealth strategies will require other interfaces such as phone hotlines or a smart phone to access?

Reply 1

Andrew Vild Aug 3, 2018

Status label added: Work Update

Reply 0