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Using participatory methods to design an mHealth intervention for a low income country, a case study in Chikwawa, Malawi

Laidlaw, Rebecca and Dixon, Diane and Morse, Tracy and Beattie, Tara K. and Kumwenda, Save and Mpemberera, Grant (2017) Using participatory methods to design an mHealth intervention for a low income country, a case study in Chikwawa, Malawi. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 17. ISSN 1472-6947

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Background: mHealth holds the potential to educate rural communities in developing countries such as Malawi, on issues which over-burdened and under staffed health centres do not have the facilities to address. Previous research provides support that mHealth could be used as a vehicle for health education campaigns at a community level; however the limited involvement of potential service users in the research process endangers both user engagement and intervention effectiveness. Methods: This two stage qualitative study used participatory action research to inform the design and development of an mHealth education intervention. First, secondary analysis of 108 focus groups (representing men, women, leadership, elderly and male and female youth) identified four topics where there was a perceived health education need. Second, 10 subsequent focus groups explored details of this perceived need and the acceptability and feasibility of mHealth implementation in Chikwawa, Malawi Results: Stage 1 and Stage 2 informed the design of the intervention in terms of target population, intervention content, intervention delivery and the frequency and timing of the intervention. This has led to the design of an SMS intervention targeting adolescents with contraceptive education which they will receive three times per week at 4pm and will be piloted in the next phase of this research Conclusion: This study has used participatory methods to identify a need for contraception education in adolescents and inform intervention design. The focus group discussions informed practical considerations for intervention delivery, which has been significantly influenced by the high proportion of users who share mobile devices and the intervention has been designed to allow for message sharing as much as possible.