African Data Scientists Set to Gather in Kigali for the 3rd DS-I Africa Consortium Meeting

By Akros Media on November 4, 2023 in GIS, Health Data Systems, News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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KIGALI, RWANDA – November 3, 2023 – The Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I-Africa) Consortium is thrilled to announce the 3rd DS-I Africa Consortium Meeting, a significant event that promises to foster collaboration and innovation in the field of data science and health across Africa.

The event will convene from November 3 to 9, 2023, at the prestigious Kigali Serena Hotel and Conference Centre in Kigali, Rwanda. This in-person meeting is set to be an exceptional gathering of over 250 researchers and stakeholders, both from Africa and around the world, who are eager to exchange ideas, showcase their groundbreaking work, and drive the future of data-driven healthcare solutions.

DS-I Africa, launched in September 2021 through funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund and 11 other NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices, has been at the forefront of advancing data science capacity and fostering data-driven healthcare solutions in Africa. The program started with 19 funded projects and has recently grown to support 38 projects in 21 countries across the continent.

Michelle Skelton, the project lead for the DS-I Africa Coordinating Centre at the University of Cape Town, expressed her enthusiasm, stating, “The next few days here in Kigali are earmarked for our Data Science Community to reconnect and plan for the future of data-centered healthcare.”

The program highlights include:

  1. Datathon (November 4-5): A two-day event designed to harness the diverse expertise within the consortium. Participants will be introduced to the eLwazi Open Data Science Platform and explore compute deployment.
  2. Networking Exchange (November 6): Open to data science-related organizations, this event offers an informal platform for participants to engage with DS-I Africa and its members and to gain insights into their projects. It’s akin to a scientific poster session, promoting collaboration and information exchange.

This prestigious event features such special guests as Professor Muganga Didas Kayihura (Vice Chancellor University of Rwanda), Dr. Eugene Mutimura (Executive Secretary of Rwanda National Council for Science and Technology), and Dr. Peter Kilmarx (Acting Director, Fogarty International Center, NIH). The lineup of keynote speakers includes such experts as Dr. Luqman Lawal, Dr. Ciara Staunton, Dr. Dirk Brand, Associate Professor Deshen Moodley, Dr. Akbar Waljee, and Dr. Ann Mwangi, among others.

The comprehensive program covers themes addressing critical areas of concern, including Sustainable Data Analysis Pipelines, Data Governance and Cross-border Data Sharing, Opportunities to Harness Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning for Health in Africa, and Strategies for Effective and Equitable Partnerships. Additionally, there will be a follow-up discussion with colleagues from the Wellcome Trust.

For more information about the DS-I Africa Consortium and the event, please visit the official website https://dsi-africa.org/.

Stay up-to-date by following us on Twitter: @DSI_Africa and join the conversation using the hashtags #DSIAfrica and #Datascience.

 

Contact:

Michelle Skelton, Principal Investigator, H3Africa Administrative Coordinating Centre & DS-I Africa Coordinating Centre

Integrative Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town

Anzio Road, Observatory, 7925

Tel: +27 (0) 828103031

Email: Michelle.Skelton@uct.ac.za

 

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About DS-I Africa:

The Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I-Africa) Consortium is committed to advancing data science capacity and data-driven healthcare solutions in Africa. Funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), DS-I Africa is a network of 38 projects across the continent, working together to shape the future of healthcare through data science. For more information, please visit https://dsi-africa.org/.

Disclaimer – University of Cape Town This email is subject to UCT policies and email disclaimer published on our website at http://www.uct.ac.za/main/email-disclaimer or obtainable from +27 21 650 9111. If this email is not related to the business of UCT, it is sent by the sender in an individual capacity. Please report security incidents or abuse via https://csirt.uct.ac.za/report-incident

Malaria control and elimination from every angle: Mapping and applying larval source management with Reveal

By Akros Media on June 25, 2023 in GIS, Malaria, News

Malaria is prevented through use of many tools, one being the management of larval breeding areas, also known as “larval source management” (LSM). The objective of LSM is to reduce the number of mosquito larvae and pupae so as to reduce the potential for malaria transmission.

Today, there is renewed interest in LSM, especially in areas where other interventions may not be as effective—for example where mosquitos are biting outside (versus indoors during sleeping hours when ITNs are most effective) or where insecticide resistance is growing. 

Akros has contributed significantly to geo-enabling disease surveillance and response activities, including malaria interventions. Some of this work has included microplanning and delivery of health campaigns to ensure they achieve the highest coverage for impact. Through this work, Reveal, a digital global good, has been conceived and deployed across 10 countries. The robust Reveal datasets have facilitated enhanced microplanning and analysis of operational and programmatic performance to identify gaps, improve targeting and resource mobilization, and increase vector control coverage over time. 

Luanshya District pushes towards malaria elimination through application of geospatial technologies to guide and deliver malaria interventions

By Akros Media on June 25, 2023 in GIS, Malaria, News, Uncategorized

Malaria elimination requires consistent high coverage of effective malaria prevention and treatment interventions—and high coverage is challenging to achieve particularly in developing countries where highly urban or highly rural areas may not have address systems, limited maps, and challenging access due to rains, poor infrastructure, flooding, or severe events or conflict. 

In order for insecticides, such as Fludora Fusion or other chemicals, to most effectively kill mosquitoes and reduce malaria burden, high coverage is required. Envu, in collaboration with Akros and the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) in Zambia conducted an exciting rollout of geospatial planning and delivery of indoor residual spray (IRS) in Luanshya District Zambia during the 2022 spray season. The open source platform, Reveal, was used to support the planning of the campaign, including target areas, households which would be visited and sprayed, as well as the human resources and commodities required to deliver the campaign.

Spray teams, including each team lead, were outfitted with the Reveal application on their smartphones or tablets. Through this application, each team was able to clearly see which settlements in Luanshya District were targeted during microplanning prior to navigating to these areas and could clearly visualize on their phone where they were in relationship to each sprayable structure and whether it had been visited or not. 

Last mile first—the power of geospatial is now in the hands of field teams

By Akros Media on June 4, 2023 in GIS, News

Akros is pleased to announce its successful partnership with Digital Square at PATH in promoting the shelf-readiness of Reveal. Over the last 12 months, efforts have been made to ensure Reveal is scale-ready through delivery of three separate workpackages. First, Reveal is now available for download on the Google Play store—this allows quick over-the-air updates, as well as provides opportunity for new users to install Reveal onto their own mobile devices to prepare for campaign delivery. 

Second, a number of new resources are available for end-users of the platform, particularly training videos on the microplanning module in Reveal, as well as the mobile client and web dashboards. Also, written end-user documentation is available to all—these can be readily accessed through Reveal community resources. And finally, a screencast which shares the benefits of Reveal, and walks interested viewers through the end-to-end platform, where country and local managers develop microplans and then use mobile technology to ensure field teams are not “operating in the dark” but rather understand where they are in relation to all houses and villages requiring each intervention.

eCHIS and Reveal set to integrate to geo-enable integrated health campaigns in Kenya

By Akros Media on May 16, 2023 in GIS, Health Data Systems, News, NTDs, Uncategorized

Akros, with support from the END Fund through the Deworming Innovation Fund, worked with the Division of Vector Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases (DVB NTD) of Kenya’s Ministry of Health (MOH) to improve the quality of neglected tropical diseases (NTD) microplanning in routine deworming programs.

During this project, Akros applied several tools to the microplanning process to support the six-step WHO microplanning strategy. Four counties in Western Kenya used the tools for schistosomiasis (SCH) and soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) mass drug administration (MDA) campaigns in Kenya in 2021 and 2022. Vihiga County also deployed Reveal to track campaign resource usage and coverage outcomes at the community catchment level. Qualitative feedback through focus groups and survey responses showed that use of the geo-enabled process successfully guided teams through deeper population analysis, and led to more efficient allocation of drug resources and human resources for the MDA, as well as improved coverage and reach of the MDAs. Drawing upon user feedback on the microplanning process and tools, Akros adapted the microplanning features into the existing Reveal platform, an open source digital global good.

Rolling out Reveal 3.0—Advancing the Maturity of this Digital Global Good

By Akros Media on April 8, 2023 in GIS, News

Since its first inception supporting house to house malaria campaigns in southern Africa, Reveal has been through numerous phases of growth. Originally named “mSpray,” the tool debuted in 2015 and was used exclusively to support indoor residual spraying (IRS) campaigns by using geospatial data and a suite of tools to improve coverage rates. In some cases, coverage rates improved by as much as 20-30 percent. (1)

In 2019, Akros received development funding to expand the tool and rebranded mSpray as “Reveal”—a platform to assist in the micro-planning, delivery, and management of a wide variety of health campaigns. Reveal is an open-source digital global good that uses smart maps and technology appropriate for resource-constrained settings to monitor coverage of interventions in real-time and optimize available resources. 

Reveal’s mobile application spatially guides field teams to planned areas and households for service delivery. This mobile application allows offline data collection and captures indicators to inform critical field decisions. Reveal also includes a web user interface with real-time dashboards to provide program managers with helpful coverage data that informs current activities and guides teams to achieve true coverage targets. 

Reveal was initially built on the OpenSRP trunk, but in late 2021 was shifted to a more appropriate backend solution. Through this monumental phase of growth, now called Reveal 3.0, the efficiency, stability, adaptability, and sustainability has improved significantly.

All in all, Reveal has impacted 3.6 million people across the 10 countries where Reveal has been deployed. (2)

Kaoma team use Reveal dashboard to plan IRS mop-up in Zambia’s Western Province

By James Nyirenda on September 2, 2022 in GIS, Malaria, News

No matter the health campaign or tools used to implement the campaign, “mopping-up”–that is, bringing health resources to those people that did not receive them during the primary campaign–is critical. 

“Mop-up” can be necessary for a variety of reasons, but the most common causes are inclement weather that impacted the ability to achieve the desired level of coverage, people not being at home when the field teams came knocking, or field teams ending delivery too soon. Mop up campaigns can be costly, so the need for accurate, real-time spatial data to inform these mop ups and protocols to drive them is critical. Reveal, a digital Global Good that equips field teams to reach the last mile, assists in these efforts by providing digestible maps and tables to mid- and high-level managers in near real time. Managers use these maps to understand areas which were missed in order to redeploy teams to those areas that did not receive sufficient coverage before the campaign concludes. For interventions such as indoor residual spraying (IRS) for malaria and immunization campaigns, this can mean the difference between a community attaining “herd immunity” or having gaps in coverage that render the intervention less effective.

Reveal Joins Nigeria NMEP and Malaria Consortium for Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention in Africa’s Most Populous Country

By Parysa Oskouipour on July 7, 2022 in GIS, Malaria, News

Nigeria encompasses a unique and significant role in Africa. Not only is it the continent’s most populous country, clocking in at 206 million people, but it also is also the continent’s largest economy (with a total GDP of $441 billion in 2021). However, it also maintains a less desirable superlative title, which is that it bears the highest burden of malaria deaths on the continent, and 27% of all malaria deaths worldwide in 2020. In raw numbers, this amounts to an estimated 64.5 million cases annually. As a result, the public health challenge of malaria in Nigeria is enormous, and the stakes are high. Though Nigeria’s National Malaria Elimination Program (NMEP) has risen to meet this challenge consistently throughout the years, attaining the goal of reducing malaria morbidity to less than 10% parasite prevalence and mortality attributable to malaria to less than 50 deaths per 1,000 by 2025 is far from guaranteed. One key in realizing this goal is seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC), which typically consists of routine administration of two antimalarial drugs to children 3 to 59 months of age during the peak months of malaria transmission. Malaria Consortium and Akros worked with the Nigeria NMEP to support the planning, tracking, and delivery of SMC in six rural health facility catchments in the Shagari local government area of Sokoto State, Nigeria in 2021.

Hyperlocal geospatial data to guide COVID-19 vaccination in Senegal

By Parysa Oskouipour, Derek Pollard on June 1, 2022 in COVID-19, GIS, News

Senegal is hardly alone in experiencing challenges with their COVID-19 vaccine roll out. Like many countries, much of the challenge has been related to hesitancy and demand. Recognizing that having ready access to COVID-19 vaccination-related behavior indicators can inform a better understanding of why coverage is not reaching saturation and to whom additional resources and efforts should be directed, Akros (in collaboration with Fraym and GRID3) worked with Senegal Ministry of Health and Social Action (MSAS) departments and in-country partners to build a custom geospatial dashboard that demonstrates these data.

Hesitancy and lack of demand issues for vaccines can stem from a number of causes. For example, rural communities far from health facilities administering vaccines may require significantly extra effort and expenses to travel to get the intervention, resulting in a demand challenge. The response to this demand-driven low-coverage problem will be different than hesitancy-driven challenges and the data required to respond effectively is likewise different. In this example, understanding: 1) Which communities are farther than a reasonable traveling distance to the health facility, 2) where exactly those communities are, and 3) how many people are expected to be found there, is valuable information that can be used to maximize the chances of a successful response. However, access to these types of granular geospatial demographic and health data that promote this level of evaluation to allow progress against such bottlenecks, has not been widely available or accessible to staff needing to make critical resource prioritization decisions.

The solution—hyperlocal geospatial data for COVID-19 vaccinations

With vaccination hesitancy and demand as the major challenges to achieving higher coverage, the data prioritized for this dashboard were proxy indicators for providing more insight into these challenges. Further, in order to decentralize decision making and empower district and health facility staff to make decisions that drive up coverage, this data was made accessible through the dashboard at 1km x 1km cells that can be aggregated up to health facility and district-level indicators. The dashboard interface allows this hyperlocal data to be, quickly and easily, geospatially explored before downloading for further analysis or input into external planning tools.

This work was built upon a history of collaboration among these partners — which has had success in providing detailed microplanning services utilizing granular spatial data to government malaria and neglected tropical disease (NTD) programs, with demonstrated examples for malaria in Zambia, Nigeria, and Senegal and for NTDs in Rwanda and Kenya. Building on that technical capacity, the dashboard in Figure 1 (showing COVID-19 vulnerable populations against health facility catchment areas) was built to display modeled COVID-19 vulnerability data to enable more informed decisions within vaccination planning workflows.

The geospatial dashboard allows users to filter out key COVID-19 planning data at a granular level.

The geospatial dashboard consolidated a wide variety of data and relevant COVID-19 vulnerability and risk models into the visualization to be filtered by region, district, and health facility to inform all levels of health planning. Largely using demographic and health surveys, the data includes statistically sound high-quality, geo-tagged household survey data, satellite imagery-derived data products, health metrics, and health infrastructure. This hyperlocal data, down to 1km grid cells, allows for the visualization of the spatial distribution of priority groups and classifies individuals within priority groups using WHO-guided indicators of vulnerability. These include elderly population groups and groups that receive a high vulnerability score generated within the COVID-19 vulnerability model. Other COVID-19 indicators within this model included vaccine allocation, exposure, co-morbidities, information access, prevention activities, and vaccination likeliness — all of which were able to be filtered, displayed, and extracted for all levels of the health administration hierarchy to inform microplanning.

Digital Square investing $800K in innovators to advance digital health public good technologies

By Akros Media on April 28, 2022 in GIS, News

Digital Square at PATH is pleased to announce that Digital Square’s Board has approved eight proposals for investment—as part of Notice F—to strengthen adaptable, replicable digital tools designed to work together seamlessly to improve health outcomes and help close the health equity gap around the world.

The advancement of mature digital public goods for health (global goods) is crucial for saving lives and improving health around the world because these free and open-source digital health tools can be used across different countries and health program verticals, cutting down on fragmentation and duplication to accelerate scale and health impact.

This funding call encouraged applicants to focus on aligning to global health standards and guidance, as well as working with local teams to build capacity in health technologies in the countries and contexts where they will be used. Notice F consists of three workstreams:

  • Foster global goods’ uptake of World Health Organization (WHO) technical specifications and implementation guidance on developing standards-based, interoperable digital certificates for COVID-19 vaccination status.

  • Create a set of standard implementation examples using the WHO digital adaptation kit (DAK) for antenatal care so that more digital systems will include data and health content that are consistent with WHO’s antenatal care recommendations.

  • Strengthen the technologies of software global goods so they can be deployed as stand-alone products, while building the capacity of new innovators and implementers.