Can a Cell Phone Save a Mom’s Life?

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post here.

By Randi Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO, Zuckerberg Media; Editor-In-Chief, Dot Complicated

For moms especially, a smartphone is an invaluable tool. What would moms do without endless information just a tap away — especially when wondering about the health of their children? With smartphone apps that can turn a cell phone into everything from a baby monitor to a handheld pediatrician, moms are more connected to health resources than ever before.

While the time saving benefits of smartphones are often cited, we rarely think about the life saving benefits. But for women in developing nations, access to a smartphone can make the difference between life and death during childbirth.

Every two minutes, a woman dies from childbirth and pregnancy-related complications. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in the developing world. With no doctors or hospitals nearby, one of the happiest moments of a mother’s life, the birth of her child, becomes the most dangerous. Oftentimes, even if there is a hospital within reach, it is too ill-equipped to handle birth emergencies.

Enter mobile phones. What if each of the one billion women living in low-and middle-income countries who own a cell phone could use those devices in the same way that many western moms do — to seek quick access to care or health information? We don’t just have to imagine the possibilities; action is already being taken in every corner of the world.

Doctors in rural hospitals are using apps that provide information about common birth complications that could help save a mother (and baby’s) life. And with Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, a program that sends text messages to low-income women around the world about staying healthy during and after pregnancy, new and expectant moms can learn about safe breastfeeding practices, what vaccines children need and how to get them, proper medicine regimens, how to diagnose common diseases and more. The vital health information is tailored to a woman’s culture and to her pregnancy stage or baby’s age. Another mobile health (mHealth) program called MoTeCH helps local health workers keep track of pregnant patients’ data by entering it into their phones.

Mobile technology for moms is a key tool being used in efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs are a set of eight development targets agreed upon by global leaders, and they center on reducing poverty and improving the health and education of the world’s poorest by the end of 2015. mHealth efforts are bringing us closer to the three health-related targets – which include reducing maternal and child deaths — and are accelerating progress toward the goal of saving 4.4 million lives in less than 1,000 days. Maternal deaths have reduced by nearly half just in the past two decades, but there is more work to be done. So the world’s top health advocates from governments, nonprofits and corporations are coming together to put the power of technology into every mother’s hand.

Hundreds of these visionaries are descending on New York City this week at the GBCHealth Conference, an event that brings together businesses and allied leaders to deepen engagement on the world’s most pressing issues, including maternal and newborn health. Experts are gathering at the conference to discuss mHealth and maternal health technologies, as well as many other health innovations. The event is hosted by GBCHealth, a nonprofit that leverages the resources of the business community to impact health challenges.

No matter where they are in the world, mothers all strive to help their children lead the happiest, healthiest lives possible. How wonderful that tech can play a role in making that a global reality.