PDAs Used to Address Critical Health Needs in Rural Africa and Asia

Watertown, MA - August 2005: In Africa, where people are suffering and dying of starvation and disease, not only is there a desperate shortage of doctors and nursing care, there is usually a shortage of information. In areas with struggling infrastructures, no landline telephones, and sometimes not even electricity, healthcare workers have had no access to up-to-date, relevant, and accurate health information with which to treat their patients. Now, thanks to innovative use of technology, handheld computers are being utilized to deliver life-saving information to the doctors, nurses, and public health officials who need it most. International health information and communications technology leader SATELLIFE has issued a white paper entitled Handhelds for Health: SATELLIFE's Experiences in Africa and Asia to provide advice and guidance on how to incorporate handhelds into health and international development projects based on its experiences using them in low-resource settings.

Handheld computers, also known as PDAs (personal digital assistants), are portable, easy-to-use, relatively inexpensive devices that have been successfully employed to combat information poverty in remote areas.

SATELLIFE's experiences have demonstrated PDAs as effective tools for health data collection and information dissemination. Healthcare providers participating in SATELLIFE projects have successfully used PDAs to retrieve epidemic warnings, read continuing medical education materials, conduct
health surveys, and access treatment guidelines, all in a time-saving and cost-effective manner.

Handhelds for Health highlights lessons SATELLIFE has learned from its innovative use of PDAs during the last four years. The paper offers handheld
basics and project management recommendations using examples from various pilot projects and a thorough case study of the Uganda Health Information
Network (UHIN), an ongoing project implemented by SATELLIFE and its project partner, Uganda Chartered HealthNet, and funded by the International
Research and Development Centre.

SATELLIFE Executive Director Holly Ladd describes the purpose of the paper: "It is my hope that other non-profits, NGOs, governmental agencies, and the private sector will learn about the huge potential that tiny handheld computers have for improving the health care of millions in the developing world."

To view a copy of the paper online, please visit To request a hard copy, please e-mail or call (617) 926-9400.


For the past 16 years, SATELLIFE has been a global leader in delivering health information to the world's poorest countries through free health publications, global discussion forums, and projects utilizing innovative information and communication technologies (ICT). Driven by the belief that no one should die when the knowledge exists to save them, SATELLIFE facilitates the global exchange of knowledge among over 100,000 health practitioners serving millions of patients in 159 countries.


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