Tech Talk: Collecting malaria data? There's an app for that!

*Every week, Red Cross Tech Talk looks at different technology or social media tools that pertain to the work we do at the Red Cross. Have an idea? Please let us know!

*Guest blog by Michael Tomascik, Public Affairs, Ottawa

Texting, gaming, internet capability and video chat are just a few of the many features available on today’s mobile devices. But what if you needed to collect and review data on malaria in a field hospital in Nigeria? Well, there’s an app for that!

In countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and Namibia, cell phone use is widespread and the phones are even being used to help combat malaria. In early 2011, the company DataDyne released a cell phone application which uses mobile phones for data entry and collection.

Users can develop questionnaires by using Management Survey Tool (MST) which is powered by EpiSurveyor software. EpiSurveyor has enabled Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers/workers to be able to use their mobile devices while in the field to relay MST data to and from a central server for viewing and analysis.

Health surveys collected for malaria have provided Red Cross health officials with data crucial in making timely and relevant evidenced-based decisions regarding programs and policies. For example, in Nigeria, the International Federation of Red Cross is using the latest MST surveys from Nigeria’s Cross River State to evaluate the impact of a mass distribution and hang-up campaign by the Nigerian Red Cross Society volunteers. The campaign involves more than half a million long-lasting insecticide-treated nets.

Additionally, the MST malaria-surveys have highlighted information concerning malaria prevention and treatment, insight into public access to local healthcare services and household income.

Surveys are regarded as vitally important for making informed decisions in public health. But doing them in what is rapidly becoming the old-fashioned way, with pencils and clipboards, is expensive and time-consuming.

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