ITU and Bupa form telehealth partnership to fight chronic disease

The International Telecommunications Union says it has signed a “groundbreaking” partnership with international healthcare company Bupa aimed at using mobile technologies to fight disease in low- and middle-income countries.

Named ‘Be Healthy, Be Mobile’, the program is to focus on combating chronic non-communicable illnesses like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and serious respiratory conditions.

The collaboration is also to involve the World Health Organization.

The International Telecommunications Union says it has signed a “groundbreaking” partnership with international healthcare company Bupa aimed at using mobile technologies to fight disease in low- and middle-income countries.

Named ‘Be Healthy, Be Mobile’, the program is to focus on combating chronic non-communicable illnesses like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and serious respiratory conditions.

The collaboration is also to involve the World Health Organization.

“Non-communicable diseases are the single greatest factor contributing to mortality and the overall disease burden in developed countries and emerging economies alike,” said Hamadoun Toure, the ITU’s secretary-general. “Where m-Health is concerned, ITU works with WHO to share our long-standing experience and our competence in mobile technologies and healthcare as well as our network of partners.”

Bupa (London, UK) reckons mobile technology represents a cost-effective and accessible way to provide people with health information and tools and reduce the global impact of chronic diseases.

According to its latest statistics, some nine million of the 36 million people who died from chronic disease in 2008 were under the age of 60, and 90% of those deaths occurred in low- and middle-income economies.

“Through this partnership, we will be at the heart of a systemic intervention in healthcare and will help millions of people to live longer, healthier, happier lives, fulfilling our purpose,” said Stuart Fletcher, Bupa’s chief executive.

The program is to run for four years initially and the partners say they will look to develop best practices and bring those to scale.

In its first phase, the initiative will focus on deploy mobile technology in areas like diabetes, smoking cessation, hypertension, wellness and training of health workers.

More than 25 countries have already expressed interest in participating and a smoking cessation program via mobile phones is currently under way in Costa Rica.

Bupa says it will contribute expert knowledge, health information and innovative technology to support the program.