SMS for disease control in developing countries: a systematic review of mobile health applications

J Telemed Telecare. 2012 Jul;18(5):273-81. doi: 10.1258/jtt.2012.110810. Epub 2012 Jul 23.


Mobile phones provide a low cost method of addressing certain health system needs in developing countries. We examined SMS-supported interventions for prevention, surveillance, management and treatment compliance of communicable and non-communicable diseases in developing countries. We searched both peer-reviewed and grey literature reporting the use of SMS messages for disease prevention, surveillance, self-management and compliance in developing countries. A total of 98 applications fulfilled the inclusion criteria (33 prevention, 19 surveillance, 29 disease management and 17 patient compliance applications). In 31 projects, the SMS applications were evaluated. The majority of applications focused on HIV/AIDS and were located in India, South Africa and Kenya. Most used bulk (push) messaging. In general, they were well accepted by the population. The review provides further evidence that mobile phones are an appropriate and promising tool for disease control interventions in developing countries.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Communicable Disease Control / methods
  • Developing Countries*
  • Disease Management*
  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Patient Compliance
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Preventive Health Services / methods*
  • Text Messaging*