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August 2016

Digital Support for Childbirth in Developing Countries: Seeds of Hope in an Evidential Desert

Author Affiliations
  • 1eHealth Research Group, Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Edinburgh, Scotland
JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(8):737-739. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.1010

As the medical science media disgorges its daily cornucopia of innovations in genomics, precision medicine, robotics, and artificial intelligence with the promise of revolutionizing health care, we often forget that in much of the world the basic right to life and a healthy childhood is denied to many. Although such cutting-edge developments hold great promise, they are associated with huge costs and a possibility that returns on investment may be many years in the making, while much of this effort is focused on optimizing what is already good. The developing world faces an altogether different set of priorities, with high rates of preventable death and disability, often during childbirth and the perinatal period. In these contexts, simple innovations such as new hand hygiene regimens or better training for rural health care workers have enormous potential to improve patient outcomes and human dignity at little cost, and yet are often poorly implemented. In the midst of this apparent gulf between worlds, eHealth offers a welcome set of possible solutions.

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