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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 October, 2004, 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK
Mobile aid for diabetes patients
Mobile 'phone   Earth Report
Making life simpler: Help is a keypress away
Mobile phones are being used to try to make the lives of people with diabetes easier by high-speed data transfer.

A team in Oxford, UK, is using mobiles to record and organise information from patients, and to send it directly to a hospital for rapid analysis and advice.

More than 170 million people globally have diabetes, caused when their bodies stop regulating blood glucose levels.

The team says the Oxford experiment may open the way for mobiles to be used to manage several other chronic diseases.

Increasing problem

The trial is featured in Health Matters, a film in the Earth Report series made by Television Trust for the Environment and shown on BBC News 24, BBC One and BBC World.

The film examines new ideas to save lives and improve health, especially in countries which cannot afford decent medical care.

 Click here to watch the Earth Report film Health Matters.

Dr Andrew Farmer of the Oxford team says the 171m people affected globally by diabetes are likely to have more than doubled by 2030.

TB sufferer in Malawi   Earth Report
Malawians call TB "the big cough"
Diabetics can test their own blood sugar level and control it by injecting insulin, and by monitoring their diet. This usually means checking levels four times a day and noting down the results.

Dr Farmer tells TVE: "One of the problems with all of these things is having to record the information and get it all laid out neatly and then go back and look at what you're doing.

"So there's a lot of thinking work that needs to go into that, a lot of recording, and it can dominate your life."

But a mobile will record the blood sugar levels, and the latest versions also allow high-speed data transmission so that the information can be sent straight to the patient's hospital.

There software can look for patterns in the levels, giving doctors an accurate picture of how they change over time.

One of the first people involved in the trial is Hannah Boschen. Special software on her mobile takes readings by cable from the electronic meter that tests her blood and sends it to a central server.

Within seconds she can see a graph showing whether the level has risen or fallen since the last test.

She says: "I now feel that I'm in control of the diabetes, managing my insulin doses and getting the blood sugar levels right."

Growing a better diet

Other initiatives the film features are a mobile clinic to take healthcare to street children in the slums of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and the introduction of an improved hybrid sweet potato variety in Uganda to combat vitamin A deficiency.

Nairobi street scene   Earth Report
Healthcare can be hard to find in Nairobi
In Malawi, where TB is common, a scheme funded by the UK government is training local storekeepers to recognise the symptoms and refer sufferers to public health centres.

One storekeeper, Jabesi Chinyama, says: "Referring the customers to the hospital is not a loss to my business, because the more I send customers the more I'll have friends.

"If they go to the hospital and get the appropriate help then they will always refer to me as the source of their health."




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