Boosting disease detection through rapid diagnostics, mobile devices, and mapping

Boosting disease detection through rapid diagnostics, mobile devices, and mapping

By Akros Media on April 30, 2024 in GIS, News

Many sub-saharan African countries are facing a double burden of both infectious disease and chronic diseases—malaria, HIV, and TB are often coupled with diabetes and hypertension. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) may be used to test for a variety of infectious and chronic diseases even outside of clinic settings—for example community health workers may provide these tests to patients, or people may self-administer RDTs within their homes. 

With the expansion of mobile devices and geospatial data, so too are the options and pathways for how to use RDTs within the health system. The University of Washington, along with Audere, Akros, and several other partners funded by the Gates Foundation, embarked in 2022 to explore alternative approaches to using RDTs for acute and chronic disease in Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia. Given the lack of comprehensive studies integrating digital data and rapid diagnostic testing, this team sought to develop and evaluate a patient-centered digitally-facilitated and integrated health care package for priority disease infections and chronic NCDs. In the initial phase of this work, termed “Phase 1” we conducted qualitative studies and collected home-based quantitative survey data to evaluate and develop community-based testing strategies for HIV, malaria, diabetes, and hypertension in three resource-limited settings. The results of Phase 1 of this study demonstrated that home- and community-based testing models are widely acceptable and feasible among participants, community health workers, and providers. 

Following this rich learning of Phase 1, the study team is now embarking on Phase 2, where we will again be working in Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia to conduct a three-arm randomized control trial (RCT) comparing two community-based intervention strategies for RDTs (CHW-facilitated and home-based self-testing) compared to the passive standard of care clinic-based testing. Akros’ primary role in Phase 2 is to bring geospatial expertise to the study design and deployment. We will be mapping each study community using high resolution satellite imagery and will digitize household footprints to guide site selection, clustering, and randomization strategies to minimize the likelihood of cross contamination across study arms. We will also utilize the Reveal tool to guide the survey teams to the correct households ensuring the study protocol and design is closely adhered to.

We look forward to rolling out Phase 2 and further exploring how RDTs can effectively be used to improve routine surveillance and treatment for infectious and chronic diseases—and applying the information gained to improve public health surveillance across Africa.