Isaac here—some of you know me as one of the founders of Medic Mobile, and more recently I’m also pursuing research projects through a Gates Cambridge scholarship in management studies and as a fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Global Health Academy. One of my main projects at Edinburgh is to develop a masters-level online mHealth course and I’m posting here to 1) start a conversation about different approaches to pursuing the aim of capacity building, and 2) solicit feedback and invite contributors and participants.
It seems that in the last year or two, resources for mHealth and ICT4D projects have been proliferating. I’m talking about PATH’s ICT Toolkit, Plan’s ICT4D guide, TechChange’s Mobile Phones for Public Health course (in which I’ve been an instructor twice), the Stanford mHealth MOOC, conversations at GHDOnline and the growing pool of resources at mhealthknowledge.org to name a few. Personally I’ve found some of these resources very helpful, and I’d like to push these efforts forwards.
mHealth projects typically call for interdisciplinary teams, but too few people have the crosscutting expertise to bring together teams of engineers, designers, clinicians and managers. As a result, studies demonstrating important impacts of mHealth interventions have often evaluated built-from-scratch technologies that are insufficiently robust to merit widespread adoption, while the designers and implementers of successful mHealth projects often lack the skills to robustly evaluate their impacts. With the Edinburgh course we’re trying to address the challenge of interdisciplinary capacity in two ways. First, here’s the basic course summary:
mHealth in high and low resource settings is a 10-credit online course offered by the University of Edinburgh’s Global Health Academy, in partnership with the non-profit technology company Medic Mobile. This interdisciplinary overview draws on rich insights from established fields such as eHealth, public health, engineering, development studies, participatory design and management. By comparing and contrasting examples of mHealth deployments in a range of global settings, we will challenge you to think beyond the technology to the functions it is serving and to consider the socio-technical issues that shape how mHealth projects are designed, implemented and evaluated. In a new and complex field, where practitioners and policy makers struggle to understand why some interventions are so much more effective than others, nothing could be more pragmatic than grasping key frameworks for analysing new projects and designing your own more effectively. The ten weeks of the course are titled:
· mHealth in Global Context
· mHealth Opportunities: key use cases, software and hardware
· Common Pitfalls
· Interpreting the Evidence Base for mHealth
· Why is it so hard to replicate and scale successes?
· Designing Effective mHealth Interventions
· Operations, Project Management
· Conducting mHealth Research
· Sustainable Financial Models for mHealth
· mHealth Policy
So, we’re drawing heavily on the academic literature in fields that have seen less play in the ICT4D and mHealth fields, and we’re emphasizing a theoretical toolkit or framework for bringing these diverse perspectives together and making them actionable. I'd also welcome feedback on the more thorough intro here: http://bit.ly/1qQhLAX
Here are my questions for you:
1) What sorts of activities do you see as most important or helpful in fostering interdisciplinary capacity for our field?
2) Of the existing resources out there, have any really proven game-changing for you or your team? Or have you mostly learned from conversations and experiences in the field?
3) For this sort of academic coursework—do you see it as most useful for younger students, or do you think mid-career professionals who are new to the mHealth space might benefit from taking a course like this?
4) Are there any projects or guest-experts that we should feature in the course? We’re particularly interested in interviewing more guest experts and academics from low-income country institutions (feel free to reach out on or off-list).
Thanks for the opportunity to post, and I’d love to discuss this with all of you. Many thanks to Joaquín for encouraging me to post here in addition to the more niche ICT4CHW mailing list!