Akros partners with College of William and Mary’s AidData, selected as one of DREAMS Challenge winners

`Andy Prinsen August 5, 2016
featured image

On July 18, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (PEPFAR), announced the provisional winners of its $85 million DREAMS innovation challenge to reduce HIV/AIDS rates among adolescent girls and women in sub-Saharan African countries.

Akros is excited to announce that we will be working with the College of William and Mary’s AidData research lab to help policymakers in Zambia make healthcare decisions based on the best available data.
The DREAMS challenge points out that, despite considerable progress in the global response to the epidemic, AIDS is the leading cause of death for adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. Girls and young women account for 75 percent of all new HIV infections among adolescents in the region, and more than 7,000 new infections a week globally.

DREAMS is an ambitious public-private program whose partners include, in addition to PEPFAR, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences, and Viiv Healthcare. PEPFAR is administered by the U.S. Department of State, and implemented by a number of U.S. government agencies, including DoS and USAID. By improving targeting and resource coordination, PEPFAR programs, particularly those focused on women, girls, orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) can reach more beneficiaries more efficiently and effectively.

Akros and AidData are excited to utilize our combined years of experience to develop solutions in the fight against HIV/AIDS here in Zambia. Learn more about the DREAMS Innovation Challenge at www.dreamschallenge.org.

Tracking the construction of latrines

`Andy Prinsen and Alexis Barnes June 7, 2016
featured image

Story originally published on the CLTS Knowledge Hub.

Monitoring is always an important part of the development process, especially in CLTS. What are the factors and milestones we discuss when it comes to improving Water, Sanitation and Hygiene? We discuss Open Defecation Free status (ODF). We discuss uptake of handwashing with soap. We also discuss the construction of latrines. All of these factors can be indicators that will point to improved sanitation standards and the potential reduction of diarrheal disease. But how can we monitor and evaluate these indicators in a regular, timely, and accurate way?

Recently, the Government of Zambia and its partners implemented a system to track one of these factors – the construction of latrines – at a local, granular level, meaning the collected data can be sub-divided with information about each latrine, helping policy-makers know what type of improvements to implement in each area. Using the District Health Information System (DHIS 2), the same system the country uses to track things like malaria indicators and community-level trachoma prevention, everyone using the system can now see where latrines have been built and where they are lacking.

“DHIS2 is one of the few systems that enables simple feature phones to report directly into a central database that enables users to build custom dashboards from all levels, live feedback mechanisms, and custom reports,” said Scott Russpatrick, Informatics Manager at Akros [www.akros.com]. “It’s also free and open source to use, which is essential for ministries to sustain the system beyond the lifetime of donor projects.”

Read More

Reflections on ASTMH Conference 2015

`Sandra Chishimba January 21, 2016
featured image

First and foremost, I wish to acknowledge the travel funds from Akros for providing me a great opportunity allowing me to attend the 2015 annual meeting American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH). ASTMH is an interdisciplinary organization for the field of tropical medicine, and the annual meeting is for all scientists whose work is in tropical medicine around the world. The research topics ranged from basic science to clinical research. The conference program was divided into two blocks: oral presentations and poster presentations. Presentations of interest to the general audience were arranged for the morning and afternoon. The poster sessions were scheduled for lunch time.

The meeting began on Sunday evening with the keynote lecture given by an eminent scientist, Rajiv Shah MD who formerly opened the meetings. During this session we also had a moment of silence in honour of the former late president Dr Allan McGill who died suddenly.

The oral presentations were about 15 minutes each. The presenters were clinicians, researchers, PhD students, postdoctoral fellows and some MSc students. The presentations were of high quality cutting edge science research and a broad range of topics were covered. The topics were subdivided into Global health, Clinical, Virology, Molecular, Cellular, and Immunoparasitology research. Much emphasis was made on combating new infections during the global health discussions. This was with reference to the most recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. It was clear that the research field, and health systems around the world, need to be strengthened and prepared in the event of a major disease outbreak. Malaria research was a topic not to be missed. New cutting edge techniques on how to investigate ultra-low infections as malaria elimination is being implemented in several countries were presented. Such ideas work to our advantage as we can then interact personally with the researchers by asking questions in person at the meeting and after the meeting in the event that we decide to follow up on the idea for our research.
Read More

Innovation in Mobile Reporting: Community Health Worker Reports Land Tenure Claims with DHIS2

`Brian O'Donnell December 18, 2015
featured image

I think mobile tools are fantastic, especially when they empower individuals to quickly report important community events. Does your neighborhood latrine require an urgent upgrade? DHIS2 monitors community-led sanitation programs which have brought over a million Zambians new access to adequate hygiene. Is your local health clinic running low on malaria medicine or rapid diagnostic tests? Akros has a DHIS2 app for that too.

These “mHealth” tools help communities navigate through crisis and transition, all while reinforcing each community member’s rights to lead healthy lives. I emphasize rights here because it’s ultimately these multiplicative, integrated rights (like access to care and access to clean water) which provide the foundation for sustainable development. If mHealth tools exclusively focus on health, they risk ignoring these other types of rights. For example, in rural Zambia, people also have the right to live and work on their family land. But where are the mobile tools to protect traditional rights to land ownership?

Juvensio Banda, chairperson of the Village Land Committee (VLC) in Kalichero, Eastern Province.

Juvensio Banda, chairperson of the Village Land Committee (VLC) in Kalichero, Eastern Province.

Read More

How Zambia is Tackling Malaria

`Alexis Barnes December 11, 2015
featured image

Click here to view original publication in Africa Times.

Five-year-old Melanie lives on the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city in Chainda compound, a settlement that is less than one square kilometer (.24 square mile) yet houses approximately 26,000 people. She spends her days running around the maze of dirt roads and alleyways, playing with the dozen siblings and neighbor children near her brick and mud home.

In late July she tested positive for malaria at Chainda Clinic, her small body exhibiting some of the most common symptoms, fever and chills, of a disease that affects approximately four million and kills 8,000 Zambians annually, according to UNICEF. More than 50 percent of those killed by the disease are children under the age of five.

Her positive malaria test immediately set off a chain of events. A Reactive Case Detection team, including a nurse, environmental health technologist and community health worker, dispatched to Melanie’s neighborhood. Within 90 minutes, the team tested family members and the nearest neighbors. The GPS locations of the homes and the test findings were then entered into a tablet- painting an on the ground real time picture of malaria statistics in that neighborhood of Lusaka.

Chainda Clinic is a part of a community led surveillance initiative, called Step D, taking hold in selected parts of Zambia. The Zambia Ministry of Health and the National Malaria Control Center (NMCC) in partnership with organization, Akros, are working to create five malaria-free zones by 2015, as proposed in the Zambia National Malaria Strategic Plan (2011-2016).

The first of its kind on the African continent, the community health worker malaria surveillance network mixes community mobilization and simple technology to tackle malaria in Zambia.

“In the past we used paper-based forms to collect data from the field and would send them to National Malaria Control Centre physically,” said Mwila Sianankange, an environmental health technologist (EHT) at Chainda Clinic. “This would take a much longer reporting time period.”

Read More

Akros Contributes to mHealth Journal

`Alexis Barnes November 12, 2015
featured image

Akros contributed to a recent USAID journal on mHealth use throughout Africa. The fourth volume compendium, produced by the African Strategies for Health Project for USAID, documented Akros’ work in malaria community surveillance for elimination, community-led total sanitation mobile surveillance and mSpray.

The article discussed how we partnered with the Zambian government to design a comprehensive WASH surveillance system using basic Nokia feature phones that works to target the 50 percent of Zambians that are without access to adequate sanitation.

Just like in our WASH work, the malaria community surveillance for elimination program we helped create uses a system where community health workers and mobile phones combined with the District Health Information System (DHIS) platform to create a sustainable solution to low access and areas of need.
Read More

Zambia Systems for Better Health consortium created

`Andy Prinsen November 9, 2015
featured image

USAID has awarded a new consortium a $54 million contract for a five year health systems strengthening project. Akros will be one member of the consortium led by Abt Associates that also includes the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the Broadreach Institute for Training and Education, Imperial Health Sciences, Initiatives, Inc., and Save the Children. Over the next five years, the consortium will collaborate with the Ministry of Health at all levels to strengthen the systems that underpin the delivery of high quality health services and increase the utilization of high impact health interventions at district and community levels.

The health systems strengthening strategies include an emphasis on five major program areas:

1. HIV – strengthening of systems that underpin the delivery of high impact HIV prevention, care and treatment services in high prevalence districts;

2. Family Planning – information and services to promote the delay, spacing and limiting births;

3. Nutrition –interventions at community level in Eastern Province aimed at reducing chronic malnutrition;

4. Maternal and Newborn Health – strengthening demand and services for safe delivery and newborn care; and

5. Child Survival – including Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI) and Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI).

This program builds on the success achieved by the Zambia Integrated Systems Strengthening Program (ZISSP) that was implemented from 2010 to 2014.

Health Worker Continues Commitment to Malaria Elimination Despite Injury

`Alexis Barnes September 24, 2015
featured image

When Cairo Situlo learned of a new surveillance system that mobilizes community members and data, he sprung into action volunteering his time tracking down sources of malaria cases. He volunteers in the Southern Province Zambian city of Zimba to fight malaria in his community.

Mr. Situlo's x-ray, showing his orthopedic surgery.

Mr. Situlo’s x-ray, showing his orthopedic surgery.

When a health facility or post receives a malaria-infected patient, it alerts community health workers (CHWs) near the patient’s household. The CHWs then open a case investigation- testing surrounding households and giving treatment where applicable.

Committed community health workers like Cairo are vital to the system and their work has increased access to care in rural areas of Zambia, stopping transmission of the disease. Nowhere was Mr. Situlo’s commitment more evident than following his accident in late 2014.

Read More

How to Harvest the Health Data Revolution

`Brian O'Donnell September 16, 2015
featured image

Data is the last great hope for African development, heralded by leaders from the AU to the UN as the new currency of performance and accountability. Smoother data sharing might make chaotic traffic more streamlined, hold leaders accountable for public funds, or even help epidemiologists predict the path of ebola. The universal link between quality data and quality healthcare is particularly instructive. In developed countries like the United States, for example, sharing electronic health records will be fundamental for broadening access to care.

But if African healthcare professionals don’t believe the hype, the skeptic in me can’t blame them. Faced with the complexities of healthcare in developing countries, “open data” seems a reductive and naïve option. Doctors already go to school for eight to ten years, and besides, reporting to cloud-based databases through feature phone technology could distract them from their day jobs. And why on earth would they want to risk sharing patients’ sensitive data anyway?
To answer these questions on public health data, let’s hear some experts on food security:
Read More

Chainda Clinic Contributes in the Creation of Malaria Free Zones Using Tablets

`Maswabi Precious Matantilo August 20, 2015
featured image

The Zambia Ministry of Health and The National Malaria Control Center in partnership with Akros have been conducting Community Malaria Surveillance in selected parts of Zambia including Lusaka where the malaria prevalence rate is low. This is in an attempt to eliminate malaria as stipulated in the Zambia National Malaria Strategic Plan (2011-2016) that calls for the creation of five malaria-free zones by 2015.

Read More