Village Reach Country Director Carla Blauvelt with Airtel MD Charles KamotoAirtel boosts healthcare access with Chipatala Cha Pa Foni
Mobile health hotline and message service expands to cover a wider range of health topics, providing critical health information, advice and referrals over the phone in Malawi

LILIONGWE, MALAWI, July 26, 2016 – Airtel, Malawi’s leading mobile telecommunications provider and NGO VillageReach are announcing the official launch of Airtel Chipatala Cha Pa Foni (CCPF) or “Health Center by Phone.”  The launch represents an expansion in the range of health topics covered by the existing CCPF service now available to Airtel Malawi customers in eight districts (Balaka, Machinga, Ntcheu, Dedza, Salima, Nkhotakota, Mulanje, Mchinji), greatly increasing access to health information and services for many of Malawi’s most rural and hard-to-reach communities.

By simply calling the short code 59090, callers are connected directly to health workers at a call center who are specially trained to triage callers over the phone and answer questions on a wide range of health topics.  Originally CCPF information was limited to reproductive, maternal and child health, but it has since expanded to nutrition and general health topics.  All health information given is in accordance with Ministry of Health approved protocols.

While the hotline provides access to accurate health information, hotline workers do not diagnose or treat callers.  If the caller states danger signs he/she is referred to their nearest health facility for further care.  Individuals can also sign up to receive regular text or voice messages that provide important “tips and reminders” on reproductive, maternal, and newborn health topics tailored to their specific week of pregnancy or a child’s age.

The hotline and message service are free to all users and users can access the service from 7am to 7pm seven days a week, including holidays.

“Airtel Chipatala Cha pa Foni is a mobile health (mHealth) initiative that will bridge the healthcare information gap by empowering our customers with knowledge and understanding about various health care issues and also encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle,” said Managing Director for Airtel Malawi, Charles Kamoto.

CCPF was originally developed by the international NGO Concern Worldwide and with VillageReach, has expanded significantly since its initial implementation in Balaka District in 2011.  In 2013, an independent evaluation found that CCPF contributed to statistically significant improvements in maternal and child health indicators.  The Malawi Ministry of Health (MoH), who has endorsed the service from the onset, wishes to take on the service and is currently working with VillageReach on a plan for national transition and scale up by 2017.

“Airtel’s support of CCPF greatly extends the reach of the service and represents a huge step toward a nationwide government-run health hotline. This partnership is a pioneering example of how the private sector can work with civil society to improve public health in low- and middle income countries,” said Carla Blauvelt, Malawi Country Director for VillageReach.

Malawi has one of the highest rates of maternal, child, and infant mortality in the world. Mortality rates exceed sub-Saharan Africa averages by more than 50%. Many of the global barriers to maternal and child health are exacerbated in Malawi, where 85% of individuals are poor and live in rural areas and there are severe shortages of health workers with only 2 physicians and 38 nurses available per 100,000 people.  Knowing when and where to go for care is often a critical factor to improving health outcomes in under-resourced communities. Airtel CCPF addresses these challenges by extending the reach of healthcare to underserved communities, improving access to health information and services, and decreasing unnecessary visits to health facilities.

About Bharti Airtel

Bharti Airtel Limited is a leading global telecommunications company with operations in 18 countries across Asia and Africa. Headquartered in New Delhi, India, the company ranks amongst the top 3 mobile service providers globally in terms of subscribers. In India, the company’s product offerings include 2G, 3G and 4G wireless services, mobile commerce, fixed line services, high speed DSL broadband, IPTV, DTH, enterprise services including national & international long distance services to carriers. In the rest of the geographies, it offers 2G, 3G and 4G wireless services and mobile commerce. Bharti Airtel had over 361 million customers across its operations at the end of May 2016. To know more please visit, www.airtel.com

About VillageReach

VillageReach is a non-profit global health innovator that develops, tests, implements and scales new solutions to critical health system challenges in low-resource environments, with an emphasis on strengthening the “last mile” of healthcare delivery. VillageReach combines expertise across public health, technology, and business to bring life-saving innovation – new systems, programs and technologies – to scale and sustainability in the world’s most underserved communities.

About Concern Worldwide

For nearly 50 years, Concern Worldwide has worked with the world’s poorest people to transform their lives.  Concern Worldwide reaches 7.6 million people in 20 countries, working in emergency response, health and nutrition, climate resilience and more.  Innovations for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, an initiative of Concern Worldwide U.S., pilots creative solutions for improving the survival and health of women, babies and children.  Innovations is supported by a grant of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Chipatala Cha Pa Foni was developed as a pilot within Concern’s Innovations program.

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Malawi healthcare worker