Saharsa, one of the poorest rural communities in Bihar, India has among the highest infant mortality rates in the country ‒ 42 per 1,000 live births. There has been a system for community health care worker home visitation and support in place, but digging through multiple written sources to figure out who to visit, which topics to discuss, and particulars about the mother’s or mother-to-be’s condition required lots of manual intervention. Some women received duplicate visits in one day and some were not called on at all despite the best of intentions. With help from Microsoft tools, however – including Windows 10, Office and Microsoft Cloud – and support from the Windows 10 Upgrade Your World initiative, this is changing.
Upgrade Your World has been celebrating people and organizations who empower others all year. For CARE, whose mission is to serve individuals and families in some of the poorest communities in the world, we were thrilled to support their community health care worker initiative, empowering those who educate pregnant women, mothers and their infants during the 1,000 critical days from conception to age two. From my recent trip to India to visit just one of the many projects that CARE leads around the world, I saw that there is much to celebrate, amplify, and build upon.
Supported by Windows PCs and Microsoft Excel at CARE’s local office, 550 community healthcare workers were set up and provisioned with mobile devices to aid them in registering, tracking and delivering timely care to pregnant women, mothers and newborns. The phones included an app custom-built by CARE, the Gates Foundation and the Indian government, which allowed for real-time collection of health information on each client, and synced through the cloud to create a digital health record for each client. And then the magic began…
Now each healthcare worker can wake up in the morning, and ‒ with a few clicks ‒ see what her schedule looks like for the day, the due date and other important information for each of her beneficiaries, and the topics most relevant and timely to discuss during her visits. The mobile app has a library of videos from doctors and other subject matter experts at-the-ready to support discussion of each topic. At the conclusion of each visit, the results are captured and stored in the Microsoft Cloud, to later be analyzed in aggregate using SQL. No more duplicative visits, which means using resources more effectively and where they are most needed.
All over the district, we spoke with committed, knowledgeable community healthcare workers who welcomed us to their homes and villages with pride (even when we led them in an impromptu, off-key rendition of Old McDonald!). Meeting with Munni, Sima, Sabnam, Lucy, and the passionate team from CARE’s local office, several things became clear:
- The numbers are all trending in the right direction ‒ more women than ever before (21% more, in fact) are going for necessary checkups during pregnancy.
- The community health workers conducted more than 600,000 home visits in just over three years, which means more women are receiving life-saving care when they need it most.
- New and expectant mothers were happy to be visited and counselled by their local healthcare worker, and grateful for the extra nutritional supplies they provided.
However, in addition to all this, there were other, unexpected, but equally (or more) important social outcomes we observed:
- Access to technology gave these health workers more confidence to do their jobs and engendered more trust from those they visited.
- With this confidence boost, these women have become even stronger advocates for their communities, ensuring local government is informed and providing much-needed services and supplies where possible.
- Healthcare workers’ families were proud! Husbands were supportive and daughters saw a different type of role-model in addition to traditional family caretaking. We met Sima and Munni’s daughters and sons, who were eager to practice their English and tell us about their university plans to study Management and Engineering ‒ and how much they were inspired by their mothers.
We couldn’t be more excited to help CARE amplify this story as part of celebrating mothers everywhere, and to help enable the work they do in communities like Bihar and around the world. As an Upgrade Your World partner, we invested $500,000 cash, with an additional $2M worth of software, to support CARE’s work in advocating for these women and others, improving basic education, working to end gender-based violence, increasing access to healthcare and nutrition, increasing access to clean water, and expanding economic opportunity across their programs.
Seeing all of this firsthand was an incredible experience. The impact that technology has to truly empower others to save lives and create positive social change has inspired me to brainstorm how we collectively build on and extend this very promising foundation.
Thanks to all at CARE who do great things!