Airtel Malawi boosts healthcare access with mobile health hotline:  Chipatala Cha Pa Foni

Airtel, Malawi’s leading mobile telecommunications provider and NGO VillageReach are announcing the official launch of Airtel Chipatala Cha Pa Foni (CCPF) or “Health Center by Phone.”

Village Reach Country Director Carla Blauvelt with Airtel MD Charles Kamoto
Village Reach Country Director Carla Blauvelt with Airtel MD Charles Kamoto

The launch represents an expansion in the range of health topics covered by the existing CCPF service now available to Airtel Malawi customers in eight districts (Balaka, Machinga, Ntcheu, Dedza, Salima, Nkhotakota, Mulanje, Mchinji), greatly increasing access to health information and services for many of Malawi’s most rural and hard-to-reach communities.

By simply calling the shortcode 59090, callers are connected directly to health workers at a call center who are specially trained to triage callers over the phone and answer questions on a wide range of health topics.

Originally CCPF information was limited to reproductive, maternal and child health, but it has since expanded to nutrition and general health topics.  All health information given is in accordance with Ministry of Health approved protocols.

While the hotline provides access to accurate health information, hotline workers do not diagnose or treat callers.  If the caller states danger signs he/she is referred to their nearest health facility for further care.

Individuals can also sign up to receive regular text or voice messages that provide important “tips and reminders” on reproductive, maternal, and newborn health topics tailored to their specific week of pregnancy or a child’s age.

The hotline and message service are free to all users and users can access the service from 7am to 7pm seven days a week, including holidays.

“Airtel Chipatala Cha pa Foni is a mobile health (mHealth) initiative that will bridge the healthcare information gap by empowering our customers with knowledge and understanding about various health care issues and also encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle,” said Managing Director for Airtel Malawi, Charles Kamoto.

CCPF was originally developed by the international NGO Concern Worldwide and with VillageReach, has expanded significantly since its initial implementation in Balaka District in 2011.

In 2013, an independent evaluation found that CCPF contributed to statistically significant improvements in maternal and child health indicators.

The Malawi Ministry of Health (MoH), who has endorsed the service from the onset, wishes to take on the service and is currently working with VillageReach on a plan for national transition and scale up by 2017.

“Airtel’s support of CCPF greatly extends the reach of the service and represents a huge step toward a nationwide government-run health hotline. This partnership is a pioneering example of how the private sector can work with civil society to improve public health in low- and middle income countries,” said Carla Blauvelt, Malawi Country Director for VillageReach.

Malawi has one of the highest rates of maternal, child, and infant mortality in the world. Mortality rates exceed sub-Saharan Africa averages by more than 50%. Many of the global barriers to maternal and child health are exacerbated in Malawi, where 85% of individuals are poor and live in rural areas and there are severe shortages of health workers with only 2 physicians and 38 nurses available per 100,000 people.

Knowing when and where to go for care is often a critical factor to improving health outcomes in under-resourced communities.

Airtel CCPF addresses these challenges by extending the reach of healthcare to underserved communities, improving access to health information and services, and decreasing unnecessary visits to health facilities.

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