EngenderHealth: SMS Feasibility Study for Ghana Health Program


Alexis Thomas
Maria Hoffmann
James Cerqua


EngenderHealth works to improve the health and well-being of people in the poorest communities of the world. We do this by sharing our expertise in sexual and reproductive health and transforming the quality of health care. We promote gender equity, advocate for sound practices and policies, and inspire people to assert their rights to better, healthier lives. Working in partnership with local organizations, EngenderHealth adapts its work in response to local needs.

Students worked with EngenderHealth’s ACQUIRE Project (Access, Quality, and Use in Reproductive Health). This project works globally to advance and support the availability, quality, and use of facility-based reproductive health and family planning services at every level of the health care system and to strengthen links between facilities and communities.

Cellular telephone communication is widespread in Ghana and many other West African nations and text messaging (SMS) because it is less expensive and more reliable, is fast becoming a major mode of communication. Its use for dissemination of continuing medical education messages to health care providers has been very limited. Yet – this population is largely literate and could use text messaging to receive updates and messages. EngenderHealth in Ghana would support from a Practicum team to research:
1 What types of technology exist to send SMS messages to a targeted list of health care providers? And what is the cost? Are companies who provide these technologies available in West Africa? Can these technologies be “implemented” from the US or other locations and text messages sent to Ghana?
2 What types of technology exist for health care providers to request information on specific health care topics – by sending in a SMS code? (Example: Text 1510 for information on vasectomies)
3 Has SMS technology been used in other countries to provide reminders or health information to providers? Was it effective? What lessons were learned?
4 How could an EngenderHealth country office or project (which might include multiple countries) best make use of SMS technology to keep providers updated on the latest health topics?

Students worked closely with Kerry Bruce, Senior Technical Officer of Quality Health Partners at EngenderHealth, based in New York City, to recommend a specific technology that could be implemented to support this project.