Transforming millions of children's and mothers' lives in China through improved health information

11 October 2017
A comprehensive Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Information Programme, jointly supported by the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) and UNICEF, is launched in Beijing on 11 October, 2017.
A comprehensive Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Information Programme, jointly supported by the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) and UNICEF, is launched in Beijing on 11 October, 2017.

Beijing, 11 October 2017 – A comprehensive Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Information Programme, jointly supported by the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) and UNICEF, is launched in Beijing today. Mothers and babies in 14 provinces will soon be able to access essential information on health and early childhood development services through a mobile phone application jointly developed by NHFPC and UNICEF.

The Healthy Family App project aims to help with ending preventable maternal and newborn deaths by giving caregivers and healthcare professionals the information they need to allow every child to develop to her or his full potential.

Over the past 25 years, China's remarkable progress in reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality has been well recognized worldwide. However with an estimated 18 million babies born each year, the absolute number of children under five years old, who die from preventable diseases, particularly in the first few months of life, is still high. As reported in The Lancet Early Childhood Development series released last year, many of the world's poorest children in China and elsewhere, who are especially at risk to have inadequate nutrition, care and support, are not developing to their full potential. These children miss the opportunity to thrive fully.

NHFPC and UNICEF are working together in partnership to use digital technologies and the Internet to transform the national maternal and child health management information systems. The MCH Information Programme will include the development of a unique ID for every newborn, advance the development of national and provincial MCH information platforms reinforcing their inter-connectivity. And, build and promote the use of a mobile phone application, the Healthy Family App, through which appropriate health information will be shared with families, health workers and programme managers.

NHFPC is highly committed to the MCH Health Information Programme. Over the years, with support from UNICEF, the national MCH information system has been expanded, and MCH information indicators and standards have been well established. Provincial MCH information platforms, birth certification management information systems, and a digital MCH booklet have been advanced. All these efforts have yielded solid evidence to inform evidence based policy development for MCH, and helped overcome varying levels of awareness,  under-developed MCH information platforms, poor compliance with MCH and IT standards, lack of inter-connectivity between information systems, repeated data entry by local staff, and poor data quality.

Addressing the meeting, Qin Geng, Director General of the Maternal and Child Health Department under NHFPC, voiced the hope to deepen the partnership with UNICEF, so as to strengthen the MCH-MIS, promote China's experiences and success in improving maternal and child health in China and beyond, and jointly push for the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030. He urged departments in the demonstration sites to push for the development of the provincial platforms, in compliance to the principle of "unified and efficient, resource integration, inter-connectivity and information sharing". He asked them to be bold in exploring new ideas and making innovations, come up with good models and great outputs, gather good experiences, and share them widely so as to drive the development at a broader level. Qin also highlighted the importance of information security, and urged relevant departments to ensure the smooth and orderly implementation of the project.

Based on the Mother and Child Health Booklet developed by UNICEF and adopted by NHFPC, the Healthy Family App will facilitate communication between children's caregivers and healthcare providers, and enable birth registration, growth monitoring, nutritional surveillance, timely immunization, early stimulation, and targeted health counselling and referral advice. It also provides a platform for real-time data collection and evidence-based management, and facilitates communication and information exchange between the national health management information system, MCH-MIS and the Healthy Family App. This holistic approach provides tremendous potential to further transform the way in which health information and services are accessed and delivered, so as to provide women and children with accessible, convenient and reliable health services, and solve problems of time, distance and at a low cost.

The existing telecommunications infrastructure, the relatively high adoption rate of mobile devices and improved Internet connectivity provide China with clear opportunities and fertile ground to successfully deliver critical health information and services through innovative digital-based health products like the Healthy Family App to help improve the survival, development and human capital of China's children and citizens.

"Through the Healthy Family App innovation, we are using the digital platform to increase access to life cycle appropriate health information. Our aim is for this to particularly assist China's marginalized and disadvantaged population," said Dr. Douglas Noble, UNICEF Deputy Representative to China.

The Healthy Family App is linked to China's comprehensive maternal and child health management information system (MCH-MIS), which in turn is part of China's overall single comprehensive health management information system, often referred to as "4-6-3-1-2", the national health management information overarching plan. In addition to collaborating on the Healthy Family App, UNICEF has also worked with NHFPC on some of the critical components of the MCH-MIS, including the establishment of a unified National MCH Information Platform. Finally, UNICEF supported the development of coding standards and regulations for newborns, which will ultimately help realise the rights of children to be registered after birth, which is a prerequisite for them to enjoy essential health services and other entitlements. 

"NHFPC and UNICEF are working in partnership to transform the national maternal and child health management information systems, to enhance the prevention of maternal and newborn deaths and to optimise early childhood development," added Dr. Noble.

The project is being implemented in eight provincial-level regions – Beijing, Gansu, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hubei, Ningxia, Sichuan, and Xinjiang. Another six provinces – Anhui, Fujian, Hebei, Henan, Hunan, and Jiangsu - are replicating the model.   

Experts from NHFPC's National Statistic Information Centre and abroad were invited to give presentations at the meeting. Representatives from UNICEF China, related Government departments, and demonstration regions participated in the meeting.

About NHFPC MCH Department

The Maternal and Child Health Department under the National Health and Family Planning Commission is responsible for developing policies, plans, technical standards and codes on maternal and child health and family planning technical services, advancing the development of such service systems, providing guidance on MCH, birth defects prevention, assisted reproductive technology management and family planning technical services, and standardizing the management of family planning-related services and supplies in accordance with the law.

Media contacts

Ma Li
Tel: +86-10-6203-0604
Yang Jingjie
Communication Officer
Tel: +86-10-85312614


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