Mobile Application Helps Vietnamese Women Monitor Reproductive Health

Ministry of Health and the United Nations Population Fund launched a mobile app and handed over telehealth facility to improve sexual and reproductive health for ethnic minorities in the context of Covid-19

Vietnamese mothers especially ethnic minorities living in rural and remote provinces can now access information and services on sexual and reproductive health from wherever they are, through a smartphone application called Happy and Healthy Mother and Child (“MCH247”).

Women can manage their sexual and reproductive health including pregnancy and childbirth, monitor the physical development of their children as well as vaccination schedules with this app.

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The Maternal and Child Health Department of the Ministry of Health and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on March 18 launched the MCH247 app for IOS, Android and computer-based versions, which was developed with technical support from UNFPA and Centre for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP) with funding from the Government of Japan.

It was part of the ongoing tele-health interventions to ensure the provision and utilization of sexual and reproductive health information and services without disruption amid Covid-19.

The app was piloted in Bac Ninh, Hoa Binh, Son La and Bac Can provinces and will be rolled out throughout Viet Nam, with particular attention to the regions where other ethnic minorities and migrant workers reside.

Deputy Director of the Maternal and Child Health Department of the Ministry of Health, Tran Dang Khoa, highlighted the significant contributions of the MCH247 App to the Ministry of Health’s efforts to ensure the provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services particularly during a prolonged and complicated pandemic situation.

Khoa emphasised that the Ministry of Health is grateful to UNFPA and the Government of Japan for their support to develop this useful digital tool which serves as a virtual bridge for health care workers including village birth attendants to reach their clients to provide them with comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services.

UNFPA’s modelling analysis conducted in 2020 estimated the possibility of an increase in maternal mortality by 44-65% due to Covid-19.

UNFPA was very much alarmed by this as it essentially meant that many more women may die from pregnancy and childbirth during the pandemic, reversing developmental gains that Vietnam has achieved over the last 20 years and threatening the achievement of SDGs.

It is particularly useful for women amid the Covid-19 pandemic when travel restriction and social distancing are required or in other humanitarian situations. It is one of their attempts to make sure ‘no one is left behind’ amid and post-pandemic.

In the same day, UNFPA Vietnam handed over to the Maternal and Child Healh Department a full set of tele and video-conferencing equipment, which is essential part of the tele-health initiative.

It allows the Ministry to conduct supervision and provide technical backstopping in sexual and reproductive health to provinces, carry out specific training sessions for capacity development, and orient technical directions in sexual and reproductive health protocols and guidelines.

At the event in Hanoi.

UNFPA Representative for Vietnam, Naomi Kitahara stressed that due to Covid, Vietnam’s health system has been over-stretched, but it is critical to ensure the continuous provision of essential sexual and reproductive health services for pregnant mothers and other vulnerable groups even during the pandemic.

Pregnant mothers tend to postpone or cancel antenatal care visits, which makes it difficult to identify pregnancy-related complications early enough. This is a risk factor for many women.

“Thanks to financial support from the Government of Japan, UNFPA is proud to work with the Ministry of Health to develop the MCH 247 App. This is part of our ongoing tele-health initiative, but specifically geared towards sexual and reproductive health in ethnic minority populations. Pregnancy does not stop in pandemic, and women need to receive continuous pregnancy-related care.

We looked into new tehchnologies to facilitate virtual clinical consultation, conduct technical supervision and backstopping for capacity development in provinces, and ensuring the continuous provision of quality SRH services at all levels. Traditionally, we support the ministry’s training for skills development, but Covid-19 makes it difficult to do it offline, and as such, the estabslihment of the video-conferencing facility idea came up,” Kitahara said.

The smartphone usage rate in Vietnam in 2020 ranks 9th in the world with 63.1% of the population owning smartphones.

In addition, by January 2020, internet users in Vietnam accounts for 70% of the population. The number of users using the Internet via mobile devices accounts for about 95% and on average they spend three hours and 18 minutes using the Internet via mobile devices (Appota).

A study conducted by UNFPA in 60 poorest ethnic minority communes in 2022 found 55% ethnic minority women have a cell phone and 41% have access to internet via smartphones.

The Covid-19’s context and the extreme high rate of internet and mobile usage have given the opportunity to develop the mobile application and promote the telehealth facility to ensure that sexual and reproductive health care is not interrupted due to Covid-19 and other emergencies.