May 30, 2024
Health

Digital Health in Maternal Health: Advances and Challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean – PAHO/WHO


Montevideo, 7 March 2024. Maternal care in Latin America and the Caribbean has undergone a digital health-driven transformation, according to a recent multi-country assessment conducted by a team of experts led by Ariadna Capasso, Bremen de Mucio, Dora Ramírez, Mercedes Colomar and Suzanne Serruya.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this study used mixed methods to analyse the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in health centres in nine countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guyana, Honduras, Paraguay and Peru. In addition, 27 managers and providers from ministries of health institutions were interviewed.

Maternal health care, essential to saving lives, is an area where digital health can close gaps and move towards health equity.

Main findings::
  • 82% of the 1877 institutions surveyed reported using ICTs in maternal care, ranging from 64% in Dominican Republic to 96% in Peru.
  • 59% of the institutions reported using ICTs more (or for the first time) since the start of the pandemic.
  • ICTs were mainly used for family planning counselling (64%) and breastfeeding (58%), with the telephone being the predominant medium (82%).

In addition, the availability of equipment, internet coverage and skilled human resources in health facilities were identified as determinants of ICT use. Government initiatives and national investments in digital infrastructure are essential for ICT adoption.

The study concludes that digital health in maternal care builds on commonly available technologies, proving to be a sustainable and replicable strategy. However, despite these advances, disparities in digital access persist, especially in rural and remote facilities. For this reason, it highlights the need for long-term commitments from countries.

This research offers valuable insights that highlight not only the progress made, but also the areas where digital health needs to be strengthened to advance equity in maternal care.

Access the publication.



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