Digital solutions & Menstrual Health: What tools to use to increase your reach?
In LMICs, access to products and health services can be a challenge. Leveraging digital solutions is key to ensure sustainability.
When addressing menstrual health related questions, digital solutions can be a very powerful tool to allow you to :
1. Educate on menstrual health and on the use of reusable menstrual products (link sur le lien sur le chatbot)
2. Train teams on how to address menstrual health with their beneficiaries
3. Promote self-care and prevention by providing access to high quality health information
4. Increase knowledge of health providers menstrual health questions
5. Raise awareness on menstrual health
The different solutions can be developed and deployed depending on the context. Here are a few solutions:
A mobile application
Applications are a fantastic tool to stay connected with your beneficiaries. Applications that have been cleverly developed targeting menstrual cycle and menstruation are widely used. A few things need to take into consideration:
The size of the app: Even if the use of smartphones is widely present and increasing each day, most of the users will choose to keep their memory space to store photos rather than store your app. To increase the chance for the app to be downloaded and used actively, ensure that the app does not exceed 5,5MB.
The content: functionalities and content that is developed with the end-user have a higher chance to be used in the long run. In case you have any doubt, check the amazing work Oky is doing in this space.
A dedicated website
Websites require data connection. If the targeted population does not have easy and affordable internet connection, an additional budget needs to be considered to ensure that the beneficiaries will have the data they need to connect.
As an example, when we launched ‘Just My Period’ on Facebook and its dedicated chatbot on menstruation back in October 2020, we also launched a website to go into more depth. While we quickly reached 6000 users on the chatbot, only 50 people have visited the website even though it was referred to on multiple occasions. Also, we noted, little or no reading of our videos on Youtube… This brings us to the chatbot solution.
A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users. This allows to have thousands of conversations at the same time for a fraction of the cost that you would have to bear for an in-person discussion. They can be deployed on messenger, WhatsApp and SMS. Highly customable and easy to update, it also allows to have a real time view of the users and generate reporting on the number of users, their location, and their needs.
This is the option we are using today
to communicate with beneficiaries that have received our products. They can get access to information on menstruation, menstrual cycle and the use of our products.
How could you go further? By integrating a chatbot in the platforms that is already used to communicate with the beneficiaries, it could easily also be designed in a way that helps them to locate the nearest health center, provide feedback on the services received, or act as a triage tool for in-person discussion needs.
This is the perfect solution to use if you are looking at a 2-way communication system. It is a highly cost-effective way to communicate with your beneficiaries. The main advantage here is to allow national deployment at no cost for the users. However, the capabilities are limited, as it allows to only send 160 characters per message.
We have seen an increasing number of WhatsApp groups created by organizations to discuss specific subject with their beneficiaries. This is a fantastic idea!
TIP : Integrate a chatbot into WhatsApp! The impact of this platform will be increased by allowing a personalized discussion and redirection to health care facilities or allow in-person discussions at a reduced cost
This is the best option to communicate with beneficiaries that would not have access to internet, nor data. This is easy to implement and allow the organization to bear the full cost of communication. Beware that this solution is limited by the amount of interaction you can have with your users i.e., only 160 characters per message sent. The communication length can also be limited due to the connection time to the USDD platform.
Other options could have also been mentioned here like stock management or training of health workers. Using digital tools has never been so easy. The possibilities are endless.