03/06/2012 06:27 pm ET

Norway Pledges $9.9 Million To Women And Children's Health

The mHealth Alliance, hosted by the United Nations Foundation, announced yesterday that the Norwegian government has pledged US$9.9 million to support the use of innovative mobile technologies to improve maternal and newborn health around the world.

The financial commitment made by Norway's Norad (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation) will cover a three-year period during which the mHealth Alliance will sponsor competitions and award catalytic grants to organizations that are harnessing the power of mobile technology to improve health outcomes for pregnant women, newborns and children.

"Some of the poorest countries are making significant reductions in maternal and and neonatal mortality,” said Tore Godal, Special Advisor for Global Health to the Prime Minister of Norway. “With two out of three mobile users living in developing countries, these grants are critical to global health and development… Mobile phones make participation possible for women to access the health care they need, including family planning, birth, child care and survival.”

For example, the healthcare informatics company Dimagi -- a winner of a catalytic grant in 2011 -- is using mobile technology to improve case management for maternal and child health in India, which has seen a decline in maternal mortality rates in recent years.

With about 500 related projects underway across the globe, mobile health is not a new concept, but its importance in improving the health of infants and new mothers is gaining prominence.

Just last week, a Norway-based telecom company Telenor and The Boston Consulting Group released a new study of mobile health. The study -- conducted in 12 countries, including the US, Norway and India -- found that mobile health can reduce maternal and perinatal mortality by up to 30 percent.

Even here in United States, mobile health could dramatically improve the health of women and children, The Huffington Post reported last month.

It is no surprise that Norway is one of the leaders in mobile health development. According to The New Zealand Herald, Norway is the world's safest place to be mother, with low risks of maternal mortality -- one in 7600 -- and skilled help with childcare.

"Norway has long been a leader in supporting developing countries as they face challenges like maternal and infant mortality," said Kathy Calvin, CEO of the United Nations Foundation said in the press release.