Be He@lthy, Be Mobile

Partnership objectives

  1. Contribute to global and national efforts to prevent and control NCDs.
  2. Develop the best solutions for mHealth interventions for NCDs.
  3. Scale up already successful and cost effective technologies for NCDs.
  4. Harness the best mobile technology available and make it accessible for all countries.
  5. Strengthen the capacity of local stakeholders towards optimal and efficient use of available resources.
  6. Contribute to saving millions of lives and reduce the economic burden to society due to NCDs.
  7. Empowering people, communities and nations at large through mobile technology, which provides access to relevant information and services addressing the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.

Using mobile telephone technology mHealth practices can help save lives, reduce illness and disability, and reduce healthcare costs significantly. Using mobile telephone technology mHealth practices can help save lives, reduce illness and disability, and reduce healthcare costs significantly. Copyright Be He@lthy, Be Mobile

What are the health needs and challenges?

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death worldwide,causing 38 million deaths per year, and dominate health care needs and expenditure. NCDs are responsible for over 60% of deaths and represent a complex global challenge impacting high, middle and low-income countries. While most high-income countries have integrated NCDs into public health policies for a number of years, significant gaps remain in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Almost three quarters of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, many of which are premature and preventable. Certain lifestyle behaviours can have a contributing effect to the prevalence and severity of NCDs, particularly; tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol consumption.

However, mobile technology penetration is high in these developing countries, with 90% of people having access to mobile phone networks. This presents an opportunity to harness mobile technology for improving the availability of information regarding treatments and behaviour changes, enabling effective prevention and management of NCDs. 

Description of partnership activities and how they address the needs and challenges

A number of countries are already using mobile technology to deliver health promotion messages on the NCD risk factors, to survey the epidemic, to persuade users to change unhealthy behaviours and to help countries implement national laws on NCDs. This initiative builds on these successful pilots and scales them up in other countries. The WHO will provide the technical assistance and the ITU will help implement country projects through government partnerships with the support from the private sector.

The initiative, in its initial 4-year period, will scale up mobile technology in eight priority countries, at least one in each region, for NCDs prevention, treatment and policy enforcement. Activities will be two-fold: mHealth operational projects will be implemented within countries, and standard operating procedures will be developed for running mHealth NCDs intervention package to support more traditional NCDs prevention and control work. Specific countries will be able to sponsor and patron the initiative. At the country level implementing agencies will help roll out the operational projects, provide products and technical know-how as well as contribute to the resources.

Mobile solutions will be primarily SMS or apps based and will include a range of services such as mAwareness, mTraining, mBehavioural change, mSurveillance, mTreatment, mDisease management and mScreening building on existing successful pilots and scaling them to a population level. Countries will choose the interventions that best suit their needs. The application areas will be marked across Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement for NCDs, and will grow based on requirements. 

With the addition of Sanofi to the campaign, Be He@lthy, Be Mobile now involves 'two-way' SMS messaging about reminders to patients on topics such as their blood glucose levels and food intake, as part of the program mDiabetes.

The initiative has been so far rolled out in eight countries: Costa Rica, where the government has chosen to focus on mobile technology for smoking prevention and helping smokers quit, Senegal, Zambia, India, Norway, Philippnes, Tunisia and the United Kingdom. 

In 2015, the initiative also developed handbooks for running mHealth national programmes to support more traditional NCD prevention and management work including mTobaccoCessation, mDiabetes, mCervicalCancer, Monitoring and Evaluation, and Digital Health Platform.

Be He@lthy, Be Mobile is dependent on voluntary contributions from its global partners to supplement the funds that participating countries and local partners contribute domestically. Be He@lthy, Be Mobile aims to raise $10 million over 4 years, in line with the signed agreement between WHO and ITU. These funds are used to support global technical work and select country operations. 

On this partnership, Eduardo Pisani, Director General of IFPMA, has stated: "I believe that the ITU partnership is a good example of such an intersectoral approach that links different players and sectors in a modern, practical, and focused fashion."

Summary of impact and forward looking information 

In 2015, the third year of the initiative, Be He@lthy, Be Mobile successfully met its goal to launch or prepare mHealth programmes in all eight target countries (Costa Rica, Senegal, Tunisia, Norway, India, Zambia, the UK and the Philippines). These countries were selected because of their high burden of NCDs, technological preparedness and political commitment to the initiative. 

The projects have already had a significant on the management and prevention of NCDs within the country scope. The smoking cessation SMS support programme in Costa Rica has resulted in a 10% quit rate, which is two times the usual cessation figure. In addition, the mDiabetes programme in Senegal has effectively increased awareness of the disease, helped train health workers through mTraining and also helped patients with disease management through remote consultations and support. 

The 8 projects currently in operation are generating significant results which could be replicated across other countries. The construction of toolkits will also inform other countries on how best to harness mobile technology for the prevention and control of NCDs. 


How ICTs help people quit smoking in Costa Rica

Partnership information

Company(ies) GlaxoSmithKline , IFPMA , Sanofi

Partner(s) Bupa, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), NCD Alliance, Verison Foundation, World Health Organization (WHO)

Type of Partner(s) IGOs, NGOs, Other Business, Professional Associations

Therapeutic Focus Non-Communicable Diseases

Disease(s) Asthma, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Cardiovascular Diseases, Cervical Cancer, Diabetes, Haemophilia, Hematology Disorders, Hypertension, Leukemia, Tobacco Control

Program Type(s) Health System Infrastructure - mHealth, Health System Infrastructure - Outreach & Medical Services, Health System Infrastructure - Training, Prevention Programs - Awareness & Outreach

Targeted Population(s) Elderly, General population, Men, Mothers, People with low income, Women, Youth

Region(s) East Asia & Pacific, Europe & Central Asia, Latin America & Caribbean, Middle East & North Africa, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa

Number of Countries 8

Country(ies) Costa Rica, India, Norway, Philippines, Senegal, Tunisia, United Kingdom, Zambia

Start Date 2012

More information International Telecommunication Union 2015 Annual Report

Anticipated completion date 2016

« mHealth is a cost-effective and accessible way to get health information and tools to people so that they can keep well and we can reduce the impact of chronic diseases worldwide. »

Stuart Fletcher, Bupa Chief Executive Officer