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Informal m-health: How are young people using mobile phones to bridge healthcare gaps in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Hampshire, Kate; Porter, Gina; Owusu, Samuel Asiedu; Mariwah, Simon; Abane, Albert; Robson, Elsbeth; Munthali, Alister; DeLannoy, Ariane; Bango, Andisiwe; Gunguluza, Nwabisa; Milner, James


Kate Hampshire

Gina Porter

Samuel Asiedu Owusu

Simon Mariwah

Albert Abane

Alister Munthali

Ariane DeLannoy

Andisiwe Bango

Nwabisa Gunguluza

James Milner


The African communications ‘revolution’ has generated optimism that mobile phones might help overcome infrastructural barriers to healthcare provision in resource-poor contexts. However, while formal m-health programmes remain limited in coverage and scope, young people are using mobile phones creatively and strategically in an attempt to secure effective healthcare. Drawing on qualitative and quantitative data collected in 2012–2014 from over 4500 young people (aged 8–25 y) in Ghana, Malawi and South Africa, this paper documents these practices and the new therapeutic opportunities they create, alongside the constraints, contingencies and risks. We argue that young people are endeavouring to lay claim to a digitally-mediated form of therapeutic citizenship, but that a lack of appropriate resources, social networks and skills (‘digital capital’), combined with ongoing shortcomings in healthcare delivery, can compromise their ability to do this effectively. The paper concludes by offering tentative suggestions for remedying this situation.


Hampshire, K., Porter, G., Owusu, S. A., Mariwah, S., Abane, A., Robson, E., …Milner, J. (2015). Informal m-health: How are young people using mobile phones to bridge healthcare gaps in Sub-Saharan Africa?. Social science & medicine, 142, 90-99.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 29, 2015
Online Publication Date Aug 3, 2015
Publication Date Oct 1, 2015
Deposit Date Nov 2, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Social science & medicine
Print ISSN 0277-9536
Electronic ISSN 1873-5347
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 142
Pages 90-99
Keywords Mobile phones; Therapeutic citizenship; Adolescent health; Digital capital; m-health; Ghana; Malawi; South Africa
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Copy of article first published in: Social science & medicine, 2015, v.142.


Article (295 Kb)

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