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STIAS-Wallenberg Roundtable – Mobile technology in health care: promises and perils

STIAS Roundtable Meeting

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The next STIAS-Wallenberg Roundtable will examine implementing image-based mobile technology for diagnostics and treatment to improve access and equity in health care, or mHealth for short.

Potential mobile technology uses in health care

mHealth can be applied in a large variety of settings within the health care sector, including data collection and surveillance, staff training, patient follow up and clinical support (see a recent example).

Image-based mHealth

In this latter case, image-based communication through smartphone cameras facilitates the modernization and up-scaling of procedures already in place within more traditional forms of telemedicine (e.g., dermatology and radiology) and also, most remarkably, extra-laboratory microscopy (“lab-on-a-chip”) in medical fields up to recently very dependent on the laboratory environment such as pathology or ophthalmology.

In spite of this tremendous potential, reports from domains of application other than “image-based” call for cautious enthusiasm, indicating that many mHealth projects that start promisingly often are not sustained, leading to loss in both potential and set-up outlay.

In fact, the general conditions of implementation and the perspective of the users themselves are often overlooked and the technologies are not used to their full potential, impeding successful implementation, sustainability and expansion.

The above applies to a large extent to the SSA (Sub-Saharan Africa[n]) context where many of the known image-based applications can play a considerable role in the reduction of the burden of disease in the region, including rapid diagnostics of diseases like HIV, TB, and malaria, but also clinical assistance in injury emergency care (see concept note for references).

The Roundtable context

The Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation, key funders of the STIAS programme, have supported an annual roundtable forum since 2013 where representatives from South Africa, Sweden and the broader international community can engage in dialogue and debate around a central theme, typically one related to current global challenges, and in particular focusing on its local manifestation.  (Previous roundtables have focused on energy, mental health, agricultural transformation and innovation policy.)

 The 2017 STIAS-Wallenberg Roundtable will focus on mHealth.  Its aim is to provide a forum for a variety of stakeholders to discuss the possibilities that current developments in image-based mobile technology offer for timely, accurate and equitable healthcare delivery; and, the challenges that their development and implementation may entail for potential users and beneficiaries.


Lucie Laflamme and Lee Walls, members of the CC

Preparations started with a proposal in 2015; putting together a Coordinating Committee (CC), and several workshops to review and synthesise the relevant literature, discuss the state of knowledge among stakeholders, etc. The last workshop took place at STIAS on 25 and 26 August 2016 and was attended by most members of the CC. This workshop gave particular attention to, among others, the theme of the 2017 STIAS-Wallenberg Roundtable, the possible outcomes, the sectors to be involved, creating an interactive atmosphere to stimulate networking and frank exchange, and the structure and contents of the draft programme. Detailed follow-up planning took place in November 2016.

Potential outcomes

The following primary outcomes are envisaged:

  • A special issue of the journal Global Health Action will be devoted to mHealth. Contributions to this issue have been solicited by members of the CC, who are also responsible for the peer-review processes and the final editing of the accepted contributions. The production time-line is being managed carefully to ensure that the special issue will be available at the Roundtable in February 2017.
  • Prerequisites for the development of mHealth will be discussed during the course of the Roundtable with a view to develop a roadmap, or possibly overlaying roadmaps, for implementation, expansion and up-scaling in resource-poor settings such as SSA. The roadmap(s), together with ideas, comments and criticisms from the Roundtable will inform the final editorial overview of the contributions in the special issue of Global Health Action.

Date and venue

The 2017 STIAS-Wallenberg Roundtable is scheduled to take place over two days from 20 to 21 February 2017. The number of participants will be flexibly limited at around forty in order to facilitate face-to-face exchange and discussions. The venue is the Wallenberg Research Centre in Stellenbosch, South Africa (see map with directions).


Attendance at the Roundtable is by invitation only, and although there is no registration fee, invited delegates are required to register beforehand to expedite logistical arrangements. If you are interested in attending the 2017 STIAS-Wallenberg Roundtable either as a participant, delegate, sponsor, media representative, publisher or exhibitor, please complete the Application to register and send it to professor Johann Groenewald on [email protected] as soon as possible, but preferably before 31 January 2017.

Related event at STIAS – MNCH Tech

Immediately following the 2017 STIAS-Wallenberg Roundtable, the Peter Wall Institute Colloquium Abroad will be hosted also at STIAS, from 22 to 24 February 2017, also consisting of a limited number of delegates.  The topic of this workshop is Technology for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH Tech), and the primary objective is to build a roadmap for technology development to help achieve SDG 3 in maternal, newborn and child health. For this, a select group of leaders in development and deployment of global health solutions and mobile health technologies will be convened, together with key stakeholders from both developed and developing countries. More information about this event is available here.


Downloadable documents:

The Roundtable programme

Application to register for the Roundtable

The mHealth Roundtable concept note

The Roundtable Coordinating Committee

map to the venue.

Other information

For visa requirements, please see .

For visitors’ information to Stellenbosch and surrounds, please consult .


Last updated: 16 February 2017

Date and time

Sunday, 19 February 2017 —
Wednesday, 22 February 2017


All times are in SAST (UTC+2)


STIAS Wallenberg Research Centre

STIAS, Marais Road, Mostertsdrift

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Journal Article

Wallis, Lee, Marie Hasselberg, Catharina Barkman, Isaac Bogoch, Sean Broomhead, Guy Dumont, Johann Groenewald, Johan Lundin, Johan Norell Bergendahl, Peter Nyasulu, Maud Olofsson, Lars Weinehall and Lucie Laflamme. 2017. A roadmap for the implementation of mHealth innovations for image-based diagnostic support in clinical and public-health settings: a focus on front-line health workers and health-system organizations. Global Health Action, 10(sup3), 1340254.

Journal Article

Laflamme, Lucie. 2017. Image-based mHealth for remote diagnostic assistance a means to promote equity in quality care. Global Health Action, 10(sup3), 1344004.

Journal Article

Galloway, Michelle. 2017. STIAS–Wallenberg Roundtable on mHealth: Towards a roadmap for image-based mobile technologies for health care. South African Journal of Science, 113(7/8).


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