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Community Health Workers and Mobile Technology: A Systematic Review of the Literature

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      In low-resource settings, community health workers are frontline providers who shoulder the health service delivery burden. Increasingly, mobile technologies are developed, tested, and deployed with community health workers to facilitate tasks and improve outcomes. We reviewed the evidence for the use of mobile technology by community health workers to identify opportunities and challenges for strengthening health systems in resource-constrained settings.


      We conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed literature from health, medical, social science, and engineering databases, using PRISMA guidelines. We identified a total of 25 unique full-text research articles on community health workers and their use of mobile technology for the delivery of health services.


      Community health workers have used mobile tools to advance a broad range of health aims throughout the globe, particularly maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, and sexual and reproductive health. Most commonly, community health workers use mobile technology to collect field-based health data, receive alerts and reminders, facilitate health education sessions, and conduct person-to-person communication. Programmatic efforts to strengthen health service delivery focus on improving adherence to standards and guidelines, community education and training, and programmatic leadership and management practices. Those studies that evaluated program outcomes provided some evidence that mobile tools help community health workers to improve the quality of care provided, efficiency of services, and capacity for program monitoring.


      Evidence suggests mobile technology presents promising opportunities to improve the range and quality of services provided by community health workers. Small-scale efforts, pilot projects, and preliminary descriptive studies are increasing, and there is a trend toward using feasible and acceptable interventions that lead to positive program outcomes through operational improvements and rigorous study designs. Programmatic and scientific gaps will need to be addressed by global leaders as they advance the use and assessment of mobile technology tools for community health workers.

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      Author and article information

      [1 ]Bixby Center for Population, Health and Sustainability, University of California, Berkeley, California, United States of America
      [2 ]Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters (InSTEDD), Sunnyvale, California, United States of America
      [3 ]University of California, Berkeley, California, United States of America
      [4 ]Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California, United States of America
      The University of Auckland, New Zealand
      Author notes

      Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

      Conceived and designed the experiments: RB CC JW DI. Performed the experiments: RB CC. Analyzed the data: RB CC. Wrote the paper: RB CC JW DI.

      Role: Editor
      PLoS One
      PLoS ONE
      PLoS ONE
      Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
      12 June 2013
      : 8
      : 6
      23776544 3680423 PONE-D-13-00075 10.1371/journal.pone.0065772

      This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

      Pages: 6
      This work was supported by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Bixby Center for Population, Health and Sustainability at the University of California, Berkeley. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
      Research Article
      Computer Science
      Information Technology
      Global Health
      Non-Clinical Medicine
      Health Care Policy
      Health Education and Awareness
      Health Systems Strengthening
      Quality of Care
      Communication in Health Care
      Health Care Providers
      Health Care Quality
      Health Informatics
      Public Health



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