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A Smartphone App (AfyaData) for Innovative One Health Disease Surveillance from Community to National Levels in Africa: Intervention in Disease Surveillance

Background: We describe the development and initial achievements of a participatory disease surveillance system that relies on mobile technology to promote Community Level One Health Security (CLOHS) in Africa.

Objective: The objective of this system, Enhancing Community-Based Disease Outbreak Detection and Response in East and Southern Africa (DODRES), is to empower community-based human and animal health reporters with training and information and communication technology (ICT)–based solutions to contribute to disease detection and response, thereby complementing strategies to improve the efficiency of infectious disease surveillance at national, regional, and global levels. In this study, we refer to techno-health as the application of ICT-based solutions to enhance early detection, timely reporting, and prompt response to health events in human and animal populations.

Methods: An EpiHack, involving human and animal health experts as well as ICT programmers, was held in Tanzania in 2014 to identify major challenges facing early detection, timely reporting, and prompt response to disease events. This was followed by a project inception workshop in 2015, which brought together key stakeholders, including policy makers and community representatives, to refine the objectives and implementation plan of the DODRES project. The digital ICT tools were developed and packaged together as the AfyaData app to support One Health disease surveillance. Community health reporters (CHRs) and officials from animal and human health sectors in Morogoro and Ngorongoro districts in Tanzania were trained to use the AfyaData app. The AfyaDatasupports near- to real-time data collection and submission at both community and health facility levels as well as the provision of feedback to reporters. The functionality of the One Health Knowledge Repository (OHKR) app has been integrated into the AfyaData app to provide health information on case definitions of diseases of humans and animals and to synthesize advice that can be transmitted to CHRs with next step response activities or interventions. Additionally, a WhatsApp social group was made to serve as a platform to sustain interactions between community members, local government officials, and DODRES team members.

Results: Within the first 5 months (August-December 2016) of AfyaData tool deployment, a total of 1915 clinical cases in livestock (1816) and humans (99) were reported in Morogoro (83) and Ngorongoro (1832) districts.

Conclusions: These initial results suggest that the DODRES community-level model creates an opportunity for One Health engagement of people in their own communities in the detection of infectious human and animal disease threats. Participatory approaches supported by digital and mobile technologies should be promoted for early disease detection, timely reporting, and prompt response at the community, national, regional, and global levels.

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