Saving babies by cell

The mobile phone has been developed into a weapon in the fight against child mortality. The biggest threat to children’s lives is malnutrition in the first two years of their lives. The situation is made worse by false beliefs.

The mobile phone has been developed into a weapon in the fight against child mortality.

Professor of Nutritional Physiology Marja Mutanen from the University of Helsinki and her research group are working on methods to give proper information to mothers in developing countries on the nutrition of small children.

– If mobile applications can be used to motivate mothers to breastfeed sufficiently long and to give them basic information on additional nutrition, we could reduce child mortality to a significant degree.

– Mobile phones are commonplace and easy to use, which is why they would be a functional way to reach mothers and local healthcare workers, Mutanen says. – India has a mobile network that covers almost the entire country, but access to Internet is still very limited in rural areas.

Mutanen and her group are launching the GloCal project as an Indian-Finnish joint effort, and NGOs and enterprises such as mobile phone companies will also participate in the project. Two mobile applications are being planned: One application is used to collect information and guide mothers to feed children in a way that is culturally acceptable. The other application is directed at healthcare workers.

– India has a shortage of information and in places false beliefs and misconceptions about children's nutritional needs make the situation worse. One such misconception is that breast milk is not good for the child in the first few days of its life. The position of young women also continues to be weakened, Mutanen says, listing the challenges.

The long-term goal is to employ the research tools globally and expand the platform to cover all services provided by the acclaimed child welfare clinic system in Finland.

– Finland has practically no child mortality thanks to the nationwide maternity and child welfare clinics. Everyone has access to these services regardless of income or social status.

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Text: Sanna Schildt
Photo: 123rf
Translation: AAC Global
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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