Project Lead(s): Richard Lester
A partnership between WelTel and African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF), with the support of Grand Challenges Canada, has secured a $2 million investment to improve HIV patient care and expand the mobile health (mHealth) program across rural Kenya.
$1 million is coming from AMREF’s APHIAplus IMARISHA program; a five-year, USAID-funded project to transform the health status of the people of the northern arid lands of Kenya. This investment was matched by Grand Challenges Canada.
WelTel received a seed grant in 2012 from Round 2 of the “Stars in Global Health” program. WelTel was able to demonstrate proof-of-concept and transformative potential, allowing them to move to the next phase, called “Phase II Transition to Scale”.
The basis for the WelTel mHealth program came from a clinical study conducted by Dr. Richard Lester, scientific director of WelTel and faculty in the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. “Cell phones are everywhere in Africa and usage costs are very low,” says Dr. Lester. “This makes them a great tool for patient care in a resource-limited setting like rural Kenya.” In collaboration with the University of Manitoba and University of Nairobi, Dr. Lester found that a simple “how are you?” text, sent weekly to patients on anti-viral therapy for HIV allowed nurses to easily manage and follow up with a large number of patients. Patients in turn reported better support and were 12% more likely to stay on their drug therapy, which in turn led to a 9% increase in patients with full viral suppression.
“This was one of the first trials that demonstrated improved HIV treatment behaviours”, says Dr. Lester. ”Given the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa, almost 30 million, these small but significant changes can be amplified to massive impact if brought to scale”.