Ministry adopts WHO digital service to combat trachoma
The Ministry of Health has adopted the use of a new digital data collection service known as Tropical Data, recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Mobile technology, used for the first time in Kenya, is helping the ministry assess the impact of activities over the past seven years to reduce the burden of trachoma, which is the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide.
Through the Tropical Data digital tool, surveyors are using android smartphones to collect data on the number of people suffering from the disease in areas where trachoma is endemic in Kenya. This information goes to a central server hosted by the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) where it is cleaned, classified and analyzed by experts.
At the end of the survey, the processed information that covers the survey results is used electronically to the Ministry of Health (MOH), which uses it for decision-making and planning.
Dr. Sultan Matendechero, head of the Undocumented Tropical Diseases (NTD) unit in the ministry, said the findings will enable the government to determine the national prevalence of trachoma as well as prevalence in each of the 11 counties where the disease is endemic .
They include the counties of Kajiado, Turkana, Narok, West Pokot, Laikipia, Isiolo, Marsabit, Wajir, Baringo and Kitui.
“We are awaiting the results of the survey, but we are optimistic that the prevalence will be much lower than it is now, as we have done a lot to reduce cases over the past seven years.”
He said the findings of the survey will allow the ministry to use existing resources efficiently by channeling efforts to control trachoma to the places that most need it.
The information is also required by partners who support the government to eliminate trachoma, such as Pfizer, who donates the antibiotic drug Zithromax for the prevention and treatment of the disease.
Success of initiative
“This drug is very expensive.We get Sh3 billion every year from Pfizer at no cost, so we have to make sure that the drugs only go to the people who need them.”
The results of the survey will also be used to update the World Atlas of Trachoma, which digitizes the prevalence of the disease in all affected countries.
This information is provided through interactive maps with innovative color schemes that users can “play with” to obtain data on people at risk for the disease in several countries.
The atlas also tracks the progress that countries have made in the use of drugs to those at risk of trachoma, as well as eye surgeries performed to prevent blindness caused by the disease. Sightsavers region Kenya director Elizabeth Oyugi said the Tropical Data service ensures that health surveys are conducted using the global standards and methodologies recommended by WHO.
“It reduces the time span of the surveys and ensures that the data collected is stored safely and can only be accessed by authorized persons.”
This approach to data collection and analysis was previously used in the Global Trachoma Cartography Project (GTMP), which came to an end in 2015. It was the largest infectious disease mapping project ever undertaken worldwide.
The success of the initiative led WHO to recommend its use in countries carrying out impact assessments