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Student-Developed App to Link Refugees with Reproductive Health Services

November 7, 2016
Gillings School of Global Public Health

mAdapt is a new app currently being co-developed by an alumna and two students of the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The mobile app uses cell phone technology to provide refugees with fast answers to questions about pressing reproductive health needs. Users can search for information by location and language, and the app will connect them with accessible health-care services near their current location.

The developers from the Gillings School are Rebeccah Bartlett, a recent alumna, and second-year graduate students Zainab Alidina and Hannah Rackers. Bartlett, Alidina and Rackers are members of the project’s executive team. Shahrzad Rouhani, another alumna of the UNC Gillings maternal and child health department, serves as a project consultant.

This group worked with four other alumni and current students of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who contributed interdisciplinary skills in communications, GIS mapping, entrepreneurship, business and law.

“We knew how important it was to find team members with different skills and experiences and actively sought collaborators from outside the School of Public Health to help diversify our approach,” said Bartlett. “We also asked for advice from across the UNC faculties and departments to fill gaps in our knowledge and ensure we had a design built on evidence and best practice.”

The developers were motivated to create the app because, globally, one in every 113 people currently is seeking asylum, is internally displaced within their country of origin or is living as a refugee in another country. Among these individuals, some of the most vulnerable are women and girls, who may lack access to basic family planning services and pre and postnatal care.

“Refugee services are chronically underfunded,” Bartlett added. “Those which attempt to address women and girls’ health directly are even more so. mAdapt helps create a shortcut to knowledge about care options and maps need as the refugees themselves see it. In the long term, this will not only benefit refugees but also the host communities that support them as they adjust to their new lives.”

In addition to connecting refugees with services, mAdapt also will collect de-identified data about app users to help inform future public health and policy development. By mapping which services are being sought in which global locations, the developers hope to improve health-care delivery and reduce wasted resources.

“This project is a terrific example of the skill, innovation and dedication of our past and present students,” said Carolyn Halpern, professor and chair of maternal and child health at the Gillings School. “We are so proud of their work to improve the health of women around the globe.”

To learn more about the mAdapt project, visit

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