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Mobile Health Technologies Are Essential for Reimagining the Future of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

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  • 1 Department of Population Health Sciences, School of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia;
  • | 2 Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina;
  • | 3 Department of Computer Science, College of Arts and Sciences, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia;
  • | 4 Institute of Collective Health, Federal University of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil;
  • | 5 Department of Health Policy and Behavioral Sciences, School of Public Healh, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia;
  • | 6 Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia;
  • | 7 Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, School of Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
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ABSTRACT.

The new Lancet Commission on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) hopes to reimagine and guide global WASH efforts. This comes at a time when unequal living conditions and global disparities in response and recovery have been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and recent large impact trials have delivered mostly disappointing results suggesting the need for radically more effective interventions to improve global public health. We find ourselves at an inflection point in global WASH with an opportunity to build new approaches with potentially more equitable, cost-effective, and scalable solutions. Mobile health (mHealth) technology is an important and innovative tool for WASH advances. Yet, the use of mHealth has not been equally distributed in terms of its benefits nor is its impact guaranteed. In resource-constrained settings, where technology can increase inequalities, special attention should be paid to structural and systemic hierarchies during the development of mHealth programs along with the acknowledgment and understanding of how these systems can reinforce the systematic exclusion of those most vulnerable. The WASH sector needs to adapt to a future that is innovative and inclusive with a commitment to rethinking the resources needed to enhance scope and impact. We highlight urban sanitation in Brazil as a case study to demonstrate that mHealth can support and enhance publicly funded infrastructure and to help reimagine WASH for postpandemic and beyond.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Christine E. Stauber, Georgia State University, School of Public Health, Department of Population Health Sciences 100 Piedmont Ave SE, Suite 414, Atlanta, GA 30303. E-mail: cstauber@gsu.edu

Financial support: This manuscript was supported in part by a Georgia State University Faculty International Partnership Engagement grant.

Authors’ addresses: Christine E. Stauber, School of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, E-mail: cstauber@gsu.edu. Joe Brown, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, E-mail: joebrown@unc.edu. Anu Bourgeois, College of Arts and Sciences, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, E-mail: abourgeois@gsu.edu. Fabiana Palma, Institute of Collective Health, Federal University of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil, E-mail: fabiana.palma@yahoo.com.br. Claire A. Spears, School of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, E-mail: cspears@gsu.edu. Cassandra White, College of Arts and Sciences, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, E-mail: cwhite@gsu.edu. Federico Costa, Institute of Collective Health, Federal University of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil, and School of Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, CT, E-mail: fcosta2001@gmail.com.

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