UoN students operating health subscription SMS service

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Date and time: 
Fri, 06/29/2018 - 12:29
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AfyaConsult co-founders Bethwel Libeya (L) and John Njenga (R).

Four University of Nairobi (UoN) students are operating a health subscription service that offers subscribers with health tips on lifestyle diseases.

The system dubbed AfyaConsult links the general populace to safe, quality and relevant health education.

It was founded in October 2017 then launched in December the same year by two Pharmacy students Bethwel Libeya and John Njenga and their Dental Surgery colleague Felix Onyango.

Two more students joined the team to bring in technical skill and knowledge on information and technology, graphic design and economics. They are Alvin Wabwile, IT student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology and Polycarp Chege, UoN Economics student.

“Our primary target is to have the people be actively conscious of their health, current health trends and their role in prevention and management through use of technology. This is made feasible by exploiting the mobile and internet penetration in Kenya and Africa as a whole,” says one of the founders, Libeya.

Asked on what inspired them to come up with the system, John said the idea came up when they were on a community outreach programme.

“The three of us, the co-founders, Libeya, Onyango and I have been and are still involved in community outreach programmes through medical camps. In almost all the medical camps that we have attended as far as when we were in our first year of study, a greater number of patients were presenting with lifestyle non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Upon close scrutiny we realised that most of these patients were not aware of how to handle, control or prevent the NCDs that they presented with. We thought of a way on how to disseminate easy to understand health information to the general public with an aim of getting them to be conscious and self-aware about their health which is an important ingredient towards preventive medicine. This gave us an opportunity of coming up and designing AfyaConsult,” Njenga said.

How it works

The key strategies are through use of short messages to reach people through mobile phones and use of a health blog and app to reach people through the internet. The short messages are mainly on lifestyle diseases, diet, hygiene, sanitation and basic first aid skills and precautionary measures in case of an accident. Messages are sent to subscribers daily at a standard SMS rate of 1/- per text. One can subscribe by sending the word ‘Health’ to 22384.

The health blog is currently running. They post comprehensive posts on healthy living, healthy dieting and information on lifestyle diseases. One can access their blog at www.afyaconsult.wordpress.com.

How it will impact the society

Information world is versatile and expanding in all directions and therefore a critical platform in defining people’s lifestyle in the next three decades. Whereas health information has largely been a preserve of health professionals, the internet and other outlets are also coming into scene. This poses the risk of wrong adulterated and unregulated information. Therefore the need of a certified, reliable, provider of easily accessible information within this sphere is more than needful.

AfyaConsult comes into the information scene as a platform that will inspire healthier societies by connecting people to accurate and relevant health information. They believe that once the public is conscious of its health, the health trends and healthy lifestyle, the cost of money spent on treating and managing non-communicable diseases that results from lifestyle changes will drastically reduce.

They did a pilot project for two months and we were able to get 31 subscribers but suspended the mobile platform because of financial constraints in its sustainability. They opted to work on other platform that AfyaConsult is operating on apparently before re-embarking on the mobile platform.

According to them, they have received positive feedback from the subscribers who loud how helpful the information they have been receiving has been.

In the immediate future, they look forward to launch AfyaConsult website, which shall be a meeting platform for health information-seeking group and easy to understand health information from qualified health practitioners and dieticians. They also have plans of launching an AfyaConsult mobile app and a digital newsletter.












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