The effectiveness of mHealth interventions for maternal, newborn and child health in low- and middle-income countries: Protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Glob Health. 2014 Jun;4(1):010407. doi: 10.7189/jogh.04.010407.


Introduction: Rates of maternal, newborn and child (MNCH) mortality and morbidity are vastly greater in low- than in high-income countries and represent a major source of global health inequity. A host of systemic, economic, geopolitical and sociocultural factors have been implicated. Mobile information and communication technologies hold potential to ameliorate several of these challenges by supporting coordinated and evidence-based care, facilitating community based health services and enabling citizens to access health information and support. mHealth has attracted considerable attention as a means of supporting maternal, newborn and child health in developing countries and research to assess the impacts of mHealth interventions is increasing. While a number of expert reviews have attempted to summarise this literature, there remains a need for a fully systematic review employing gold standard methods of evidence capture, critical appraisal and meta-analysis, in order to comprehensively map, quality assess and synthesise this body of knowledge.

Objectives: To undertake a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies evaluating the impacts of mobile technology-enabled interventions designed to support maternal, newborn and child health in low- and middle-income countries.

Methods: 16 online international electronic databases of published scientific abstracts and citations will be interrogated for the period 1990 to 2014 (no language restrictions) in order to identify relevant studies. Ongoing/unpublished studies will be identified through searching international trial repositories and consulting experts in the field. Study quality will be assessed using appropriate critical appraisal tools; including the Cochrane Handbook's 7 evaluation domains for randomised and clinical trials, the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC) guidelines for other comparative study types, and the Effective Public Health Practice Project (EPHPP) quality assessment tools for observational studies. Blinded assessment by at least two reviewers, with arbitration by a third if necessary, will ensure rigour. Meta-analysis will be undertaken, where possible, using a random-effects model. Sensitivity and subgroup analyses will be reported. Publication bias will be assessed.

Ethics and dissemination: Ethical approval is not required.

Results: These will be presented in one manuscript. The review protocol is registered with the International Prospective Register for Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) CRD42014008939.