Across much of sub-Saharan Africa outbreaks of infectious diseases represent a major on-going public health challenge.
Currently, public health surveillance in the region relies primarily on paper-based systems, which hampers the ability of health bodies in Africa to effectively identify, prevent and respond to endemic and periodic outbreaks of infectious diseases.
But an exciting programme (started in 2009) led by regional surveillance networks The Southern African Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance (SACIDS) and East African Integrated Disease Surveillance Network (EAIDSNet) in collaboration with CORDS and leveraging the enormous experience of Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance (MBDS) in mHealth, has developed a community-led solution using mobile technology to help with the early identification of infectious diseases.
This week sees a launch workshop is being held in Arusha, Tanzania 5 – 7 August 2015; Enhancing Community Based Disease Outbreak Detection and Response in East and Southern Africa.
The event (funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Skoll Global Threats Fund) brings together health experts from the animals and health sectors, ICT experts and community members to discuss and agree on how to collaborate in providing solutions to the challenges facing disease detection using One Health community based approaches.
It will host participants from CORDS regional networks and includes representatives from 15 countries.
The workshop builds on the successful EpiHack Tanzania event held in December 2014 and on the 3-year experience of SACIDS of developing mobile technologies and their application to disease surveillance in Tanzania, Burundi and Zambia.
It is being expanded by SACIDS in partnership with Innovative Support for Emergencies Diseases and Disasters (InSTEDD), a technology and design company, and is being executed through an open source Community of Practice of IT programmers and health specialists in Africa.
Crucially the use of mobile technology to detect outbreaks earlier in Africa is being developed with local community leaders working with health professionals and animal health workers facilitated by the use of technology to identify outbreaks in Africa at a much earlier stage.
Commenting on the launch of the programme, Professor Nigel Lightfoot CBE, Executive Director of CORDS says;
“CORDS is delighted to have been able to be part of this exciting initiative that brings together partners and funders to create a sustainable model developed from the ground up that that will be able to be replicated across east and southern Africa saving lives and reducing the human impact of infectious disease through concerted public health efforts.”