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Feasibility of using smartphones by village health workers for pregnancy registration and effectiveness of mobile phone text messages on reduction of homebirths in rural Uganda

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  • Gershim Asiki
  • Robert Newton
  • Leonard Kibirige
  • Anatoli Kamali
  • Lena Marions
  • Lars Smedman


Publication details

JournalPLoS ONE
DateAccepted/In press - 12 Apr 2018
DatePublished (current) - 27 Jun 2018
Issue number6
Number of pages13
Original languageEnglish


INTRODUCTION: Homebirths are common in low and middle income countries and are associated with poor child survival. We assessed the feasibility of using smartphones by village health workers for pregnancy registration and the effectiveness of health text messages (SMS) sent to pregnant women through village health workers in reducing homebirths in rural Uganda.

METHODS: A non-randomised intervention study was undertaken in 26 villages. In the intervention arm, village health workers registered pregnant women (n = 262) in 13 villages using a smartphone app (doForm) and paper forms and gestation age-timed SMS were sent through village health workers to the pregnant women. In 13 control villages, (n = 263) pregnant women were registered on paper forms only and no SMS was sent. The main outcome was place of birth measured through a self-report. Logistic regression with generalised estimating equations was used to explore the effect of the intervention.

RESULTS: Comparing 795 corresponding data fields on phone and paper revealed that numeric variable fields were 86%-95% similar while text fields were 38%-48% similar. Of the 525 pregnant women followed, 83 (15.8%) delivered at home. In the adjusted analysis, the intervention was associated with lower odds of homebirths [AOR = 0.38, 95%CI (0.15-0.97)]. Muslim religion [AOR = 4.0, 95%CI (1.72-9.34)], primary or no maternal education [AOR = 2.51, 95%CI (1.00-6.35)] and health facility distance ≥ 2 km [AOR = 2.26, 95%CI (0.95-5.40)] were independently associated with homebirths.

CONCLUSION: Village health workers can register pregnant women at home using phones and relay gestation age specific SMS to them to effectively reduce homebirths.

Bibliographical note

© 2018 Asiki et al.

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