SMS for Life

Novartis’ SMS for Life programme uses mobile technology to reduce medicine stock-outs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Summary  

  • What: Novartis’ SMS for Life programme is a public-private partnership that uses mobile technology to improve stock management of medicines.
  • Objective: It aims to reduce medicine stock-outs in primary health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Scope: The programme has been piloted or implemented in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania.
  • Change: Novartis is now working with governments in Gabon, Nigeria and Zambia to scale up the use of the latest, tablet-based platform (SMS for Life 2.0).

Medical Stores Limited in Lusaka, Zambia, is part of Novartis’s SMS for Life project using mobile technology to track stock levels.

Looking closer

Novartis’ SMS for Life programme is a public-private partnership that aims to reduce medicine stock-outs in primary health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa. The programme originally used mobile phones to track stock levels at public health facilities and improve stock management of malaria treatments and other essential medicines, and has now moved to a tablet-based platform (SMS for Life 2.0). On a weekly basis, a representative from each participating health facility reports medicine stock levels through the electronic system, allowing decisions regarding medicine distribution to be made (at district, regional and national levels) based on up-to-date information, with the goal of eliminating stock-outs. The data collected belongs to the relevant national Ministry of Health.

Having successfully implemented the programme in over 10,000 health facilities since piloting the project in Tanzania in 2009, the company is now working with governments in Gabon, Nigeria and Zambia to scale up the use of the latest, tablet-based platform.

In 2016, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with Kaduna State authorities in Nigeria to roll out the programme to 255 health facilities. It is discussing with the Zambian Ministry of Health the possibility of rolling out the programme to approximately 2,000 health facilities.

Novartis‘ support of SMS for Life includes a number of positive practices that are often not implemented in a comprehensive way in similar capacity building initiatives: it explicitly aims to fill local capacity needs; it involves multiple partners, for whom roles, commitments and timeframes are clearly defined (including planning for local ownership); it has clear goals; and it includes monitoring and evaluation, the results of which have been published.

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