Special Sessions offer 'unique' perspectives on mHealth

By Mary Mosquera, Senior Editor
mHealth Summit organizers aim to facilitate – not dictate – the exchange of industry information, and nothing demonstrates that more than the event's line-up of Special Sessions.

"The Special Sessions add a unique and focused perspective that is specific to the presenting organization and not a broader perspective as we have in the other components of the program like the super and concurrent sessions," said Richard Scarfo, director of the mHealth Summit at the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), the non-profit that produces the annual event. "We feel it is critical to have various perspectives represented at the summit."

During today's sessions, attendees can hear a wide range of perspectives on important mHealth topics presented by summit Strategic Affiliates and Organizing Partners.

Special Sessions on tap for Dec. 7:

Investment decisions

mHealth's potential is gaining recognition, but there is little scientific evidence of its influence in improving health outcomes. In "Evidence Matters: Perspectives across the mHealth Landscape on Priorities, Gaps, and Common Goals for Strengthening the Evidence Base," presenters will consider alternative methods to conventional study designs, potential for scaling up and evidence-driven health policy formulation.

Increasingly, governments have to make investment decisions between particular mHealth solutions, said speaker Garrett Mehl, a scientist with the Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization. "Governments want to make informed choices around mHealth, but thus far lack sufficient evidence to make informed choices."

Randomized trials are often viewed as slow, highly-controlled, clinical studies, which do not lend themselves to the assessment of rapidly evolving public health technology, said Alain Labrique, director of the Global mHealth Initiative at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, another presenter.

"We have been conducting, for decades, large trials that ask the challenging, but critical, question of which interventions impact mortality in some of the most rural, remote and resource-limited areas of the world. Testing mHealth solutions in these real-world settings, to evaluate not just proxy indicators, but real health outcomes, is not only possible, it is necessary to convince policymakers of the wisdom of such investments," he said.

This session runs from 8:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. in National Harbor 10.

Aligning priorities

In "Building Partnerships that Work: Designing for Success and Scale," members of GBCHealth, a global coalition of companies and NGOs advocating for improved global health, offer the dos and don'ts of effective collaboration. Among the topics to be discussed: aligning priorities, avoiding common hurdles and structuring for sustainability.

Speakers include Paul Ellingstad, director of HP's Office of Global Social Innovation; Rodrigo Saucedo, lead researcher at the Carlos Slim Health Institute; and Erin Mote, Chief of Party, USAID Global Broadband and Innovations Alliance (GBI).

The session takes place from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in Potomac Ballroom 1-2.

Motherhood and mHealth

"Real World Experiences: Delivering Health Messages through Mobile Phones to Expectant and New Mothers" will use the experience of the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) to address topics about localizing content, engaging mobile operators and generating evidence.

MAMA aims to empower expectant and new mothers to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families by using mobile technology to deliver stage-based information. USAID and Johnson & Johnson launched MAMA in May, with support from the UN Foundation, mHealth Alliance, and BabyCenter.

Also, Joanne Stevens, of MAMA South Africa, will speak about getting started, and Tim Wood, director of mobile health innovation for the Grameen Foundation will discuss how to build for scale.

The session runs from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Potomac: Ballroom C, and will include speakers from the supporting organizations.

Industry safety

In "Applied Medical Device Security for mHealth: Challenges and Opportunities to Ensure a Safe Medical Device Industry," panelists will discuss principles and practices that help ensure medical device integrity, patient safety and regulatory compliance. Topics will include technical, policy, regulatory, emerging security standard and healthcare delivery organization factors.

This session is being presented by the Medical Device Innovation, Safety, & Security (MDISS) Consortium from 1-5 p.m. in Potomac Ballroom 1-2.

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