The Digital Health Opportunity in Zambia

I visited Zambia on an assignment for Novartis Social Business in December 2017 to work on a story about on roll-out of 'SMS for Life'.


The program aims to eliminate stock-outs of essential medicines through simple, affordable and widely available technologies. During my assignment in Zambia I've covered the daily life of a few healthcare workers from peripheral health facilities incl. a prison health centre situated outside the correctional facility but within walking distance.

When inefficient supply chain management results in stockouts of essential medicines at health facilities, it becomes complicated to treat and manage communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Inventory stock management by health workers are an important, but a time consuming task to ensure accurate and sufficient drug supply in rural areas.

Electronic tracking of medicines addressing key operational challenges at peripheral health facilities.


Applied ‘SMS for Life’ tablet based inventory reporting helps to close potential stock gaps by rapid distribution of disease surveillance information to district, regional, and national level management to support better disease management.


Poor and rural communities that depend on these facilities for health services and medicines are most affected. Stockouts also mean that an already strained health workforce spends time rationing or tracking drugs instead of caring for patients.

Nurse-midwife Zelipe who runs the Rural Health Centre in the Mansa District, Luapula Provence. Together with other health care volunteers Zelipe serves a catchment population of up to 10,000 people

Services offered in this RHC include HIV Counseling and Testing (HCT), Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT), emergency obstetric care (EMOC), TB diagnosis and delivery services.

The project SMS for Life", an initiative of Novartis Social Business, has been awarded during the 3rd Commonwealth Digital Health Conference in Srilanka! The initiative received the Commonwealth Digital Health Award 2018 for the category Emergency Informatics. What a fabulous recognition and a great motivation to continue the journey to improve access to medicines for low and middle income countries.

Proud that my images made it into this trailer explaining the power of this technology:

Watch the #youtube trailer SMS for Life - bringing digital health solutions to rural communities

For collaborations, assignments, editorials or other questions, feel free to contact me directly.

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Martin Vogt's body of work spans vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture alike – yet always retains a human and nature element.

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