Moving the agenda on noncommunicable diseases: Policy implications of mobile phone surveys in low and middle-income countries

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14 Scopus citations


The growing burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), for example, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases, in low-And middle-income countries (LMICs) presents special challenges for policy makers, due to resource constraints and lack of timely data for decision-making. Concurrently, the increasing ubiquity of mobile phones in LMICs presents possibilities for rapid collection of population-based data to inform the policy process. The objective of this paper is to highlight potential benefits of mobile phone surveys (MPS) for developing, implementing, and evaluating NCD prevention and control policies. To achieve this aim, we first provide a brief overview of major global commitments to NCD prevention and control, and subsequently explore how countries can translate these commitments into policy action at the national level. Using the policy cycle as our frame of reference, we highlight potential benefits of MPS which include (1) potential cost-effectiveness of using MPS to inform NCD policy actions compared with using traditional household surveys; (2) timeliness of assessments to feed into policy and planning cycles; (3) tracking progress of interventions, hence assessment of reach, coverage, and distribution; (4) better targeting of interventions, for example, to high-risk groups; (5) timely course correction for suboptimal or non-effective interventions; (6) assessing fairness in financial contribution and financial risk protection for those affected by NCDs in the spirit of universal health coverage (UHC); and (7) monitoring progress in reducing catastrophic medical expenditure due to chronic health conditions in general, and NCDs in particular. We conclude that MPS have potential to become a powerful data collection tool to inform policies that address public health challenges such as NCDs. Additional forthcoming assessments of MPS in LMICs will inform opportunities to maximize this technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere115
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017


  • Mhealth
  • Ncds
  • Policy
  • Policy analysis
  • Surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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