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.
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.
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: