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PLoS One. 2018 Jun 18;13(6):e0199400. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0199400. eCollection 2018.

Impact of smartphone-assisted prenatal home visits on women's use of facility delivery: Results from a cluster-randomized trial in rural Tanzania.

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Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, Whitby, Ontario, Canada.
Irish Aid Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Section for Global Health, Department of Population Health, New York University Langone Health, New York, New York, United States of America.
Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



About half of births in rural Tanzania are assisted by skilled providers. Point-of-care mobile phone applications hold promise in boosting job support for community health workers aiming to ensure safe motherhood through increased facility delivery awareness, access and uptake. We conducted a controlled comparison to evaluate a smartphone-based application designed to assist community health workers with data collection, education delivery, gestational danger sign identification, and referrals.


Community health workers in 32 randomly selected villages were cluster-randomized to training on either smartphone (intervention) or paper-based (control) protocols for use during household visits with pregnant women. The primary outcome measure was postnatal report of delivery location by 572 women randomly selected to participate in a survey conducted by home visit. A mixed-effects model was used to account for clustering of subjects and other measured factors influencing facility delivery.


The smartphone intervention was associated with significantly higher facility delivery: 74% of mothers in intervention areas delivered at or in transit to a health facility, versus 63% in control areas. The odds of facility delivery among women counseled by smartphone-assisted health workers were double the odds among women living in control villages (OR, 1.96; CI, 1.21-3.19; adjusted analyses). Women in intervention areas were more likely to receive two or more visits from a community health worker during pregnancy than women in the control group (72% vs. 60%; chi-square = 6.9; p < 0.01). Previous facility delivery, uptake of antenatal care, and distance to the nearest facility were also strong independent predictors of facility delivery.


Community health worker use of smartphones increased facility delivery, likely through increased frequency of prenatal home visits. Smartphone-based job aids may enhance community health worker support and effectiveness as one component of intervention packages targeting safe motherhood.



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