The mHealth Alliance, a project of the United Nations Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation, is probably the most global of all the groups out there promoting mobile health. And the mHealth Summit, which the mHealth Alliance and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health are staging this week, likely is the most international of mobile health events held in the U.S.
Knowing that, it makes perfect sense that the alliance turned to Patricia Mechael to be its new executive director after founding Executive Director David Aylward left in May. Mechael, who started the job just a few weeks ago, has a strong background in international mobile health.
According to the organization, her doctoral studies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine included research on how mobile phones factored into public health in Egypt. Mechael later was director of strategic application of mobile technology for public health and development at the Center for Global Health and Economic Development at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. (She still holds the faculty appointment at Columbia.)
In 2008, Mechael was an invited participant in the mobile health segment of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Making the Health Connection conferences in Bellagio, Italy. The mHealth Alliance grew out of those conferences.
“Since Bellagio, it’s been incredible to see how much activity has happened, how much interest has emerged, and so even with respect to the summit, it’s quite visible,” Mechael said in an interview with MobiHealthNews. The first summit in 2009 drew less than 500 people. Last year, a little more than 2,000 came out—in part because one of the keynote speakers was Bill Gates. As of Monday morning, more than 3,200 people had registered for the third-annual mHealth Summit in National Harbor, Md., and Gates is nowhere to be found.
“There is this sort of collective interest in looking at mobile technologies as a tool, especially in developing countries, where oftentimes the mobile phone is the only information or communication technology that is reaching people in their communities,” Mechael continued.
As the new executive director, Mechael is using the occasion to spell out a clear vision and strategy for the mHealth Alliance. “Our major goal is to function as an alliance, and link together a collective movement toward the more effective leveraging of mobile technologies to support public health and health system strengthening in developing countries. Our major focus is really looking at low- and middle-income countries and global health,” she said. Keep reading>>