International Women’s Day 2017: Meet The Pakistani Doctor Saving Hundreds of Lives

Mar 7, 2017

March 8th is International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate all women, but especially those who we work with in disadvantaged communities.

Dr Sada is an inspirational woman, pioneering doctor, and wonderful advocate of gender equality. She works on our health project in rural Pakistan, where she uses an app to save the lives of expectant mothers and babies. We sat down with her to learn more about her amazing work.

Dr Sada in her practice.
Dr Sada in her practice.

Dr Sada, please can you tell us more about this app you are using?

The app we use allows trained community midwives to input medical information about their patients onto a central database through their smartphone, and request a referral from a doctor. The doctor is then able to immediately look up a woman’s health problem through their own smartphone app and – using the health information stored on the database – make recommendations to the midwife about what kind of special attention she should receive during pregnancy. This means that a woman and her midwife can safely and securely receive expert advice from fully trained professionals within 5 minutes of a referral request.

So how has the app worked since it’s been put into practice then?

We are working in small pockets of rural areas, but I dream that this system be implemented nationally. The app system is very easy to use. This app is very beneficial for patients at the village level; they can get advice about medicines locally, are able to query about disease types, symptoms, and are much more informed about health in general. There are literally hundreds of individuals who are treated at the local level using this application. In some instances a Basic Health Unit (BHU) will be over 10km distance – which is an insurmountable distance when you have no vehicle to get there, nor the funds to hire one. The app means that patients can get timely local treatment, with quick response rates through the app. I myself have supported 4-5 cases through the app which were emergency situations, most prevalent being hypertension, pre-eclampsia and anaemia.

Wonderful. And how do you see the app progressing in the future?

If this system were implemented on a national level, it would be a great achievement on behalf of the poor – especially as this app is very supportive for the care of mother and child health: most cases entering the BHU are mother and child. The cost savings for the individual are enormous. They can’t afford the expense of medical costs, time out of work to travel to the DHQ (District Health Quarter, which is a larger, more well equipped medical station) with their husbands, and the cost of transport. They can obtain the same advice and support at their doorstep.

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Another healthy, happy, mother and child.

What has your personal experience of the app been like?

In my clinic, I have noticed that the number of patients who attend the clinic for consultation has reduced, as they are now being treated directly by their midwife or through the app. What I have noticed however, is an increase in access and use of the BHU for preventative treatment, such as vaccinations, scans for difficult pregnancies, and referral of high risk cases. These cases would previously present themselves as critical, and require DHQ assistance, but can now be prevented. There is a shift from critical emergency response medicine to preventative medicine, where higher risk pregnancies and illnesses are identified sooner, treated faster and appropriately, and managed with aftercare. This is because the women in the community are learning more about healthy living from their local midwives.

Has having a mobile phone and using the app dramatically influenced your reach as a doctor, then?

I can reach over 1,000 people through the application, and receive 20-30 messages a day for consultation requests.  I tend not to receive calls, because the emergency level does not reach that point. Midwives are very astute, and the new culture of attending appointments with the local community midwife limits high risk emergencies which require a phone call. The app has changed the lives of so many people in this area; I hope the government is able to use it elsewhere too.

Thanks for your time Dr Sada. Good luck in continuing your remarkable work.

All over the world, inspirational women like Dr Sada are influencing the lives of those around them through dedication, hard work and resilience. We are delighted to stand with them as we wish you all a Happy International Women’s Day.

Feed the Minds is grateful for the support from the Big Lottery Fund in making this project a reality. 

A community midwife with her trusty smartphone.
A community midwife with her trusty smartphone.