mHealth Initiative to Help At-risk Women in Russia, US

On December 2, 2013, Stanley Street Treatment and Resources (SSTAR) in the US and the Health and Development Foundation in Russia unveiled a new cross-cultural mobile health campaign at a launch in Fall River, Massachusetts. With support from the US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange (SEE), these organizations are developing mobile-based interventions for at-risk women with histories of substance abuse or HIV.
With significant mobile penetration rates in Russia and the US, cell phones are an efficient and increasingly popular tool for communicating health messages to vulnerable populations.  The Health and Development Foundation has a successful history of implementing specific mHealth campaigns in the past, including Text4Baby, a breakthrough text-based maternal and child health information service.  
The launch drew local legislators, law enforcement officers, mental health experts, counselors and therapists, in addition to participants from the US and Russia. State Senator Michael Rodrigues gave welcoming remarks and introduced SEE Public Health Working Group Co-chair Elena Dmitrieva and Advanced Practitioner fellow Sergey Frolov, who detailed their prior involvement with similar initiatives and discussed the project’s goals. The international approach taken by the organizations leading this effort underscores the benefits of drawing on a wide swath of experiences when collaborating to create better services for vulnerable populations.
“One of the important things that comes from these exchanges is that we all come to realize we are not alone,” Nancy Paull, CEO of SSTAR, said. “Our clients have the benefit of learning from the experiences of their Russian counterparts.”
Over the next several days, participants discussed topics ranging from target population and basic theory to ethical issues and privacy. Project team members are now working on a survey to be confidentially conducted among outgoing patients in Russia and the US to better inform how the project uses mobile devices to disseminate health information.
Following the completion of the survey, SSTAR and Health and Development Foundation will develop a bilingual manual that provides information on how to implement public health campaigns to help at-risk populations over mobile devices. They plan to present the manual on June 10 in St. Petersburg at the third annual international conference "Current issues with preclinical and clinical trials of drugs and medical devices."