Akros featured in recent reports

Akros featured in recent reports

By Akros Media on August 28, 2017 in Capacity Building, Health Data Systems, Malaria, News, Uncategorized, Water and Sanitation Health

We strive to be consistently on the cutting edge of the development and technology sector. And the cutting edge does not form without a stalwart commitment to research and a collecting of best practices. We are excited to have been mentioned in several recent pieces of independent research as having implemented technologies and systems that are furthering development work around the world.


Mobile Solutions for Malaria Elimination Surveillance Systems: A Roadmap

The first is in a report titled “Mobile Solutions for Malaria Elimination Surveillance Systems: A Roadmap” funded by the Gates Foundation and carried out by Vital Wave. The study was done to “develop key recommendations regarding appropriate, scalable strategies to promote further innovation and coordination among technology partners” and to “Develop specific recommendations for a coherent and effective Foundation strategy for strengthening data collection systems and associated platforms.” Our mSpray system was featured as a highlight of the geolocation category for the way it increases the efficiency and effectiveness of indoor residual spraying (IRS) campaigns (page 48 of the report).

In its conclusions and recommendations, the report points out that “many of the key elements needed to improve the development and implementation of robust mobile tools for malaria surveillance already exist.” It also says that coordination among malaria program implementers will be key to success and will help keep current the list of necessary features within these digital tools.

Akros in India: Perspectives on ICT4D

Akros in India: Perspectives on ICT4D

By Brian O'Donnell on June 20, 2017 in Health Data Systems, News

What do you feel when the Star Wars end credits roll? If you’re like me, it’s an abrupt mental shift from awestruck fantasy back to real life, a reminder the movie only got made when thousands of real people collaborated towards a singular vision. If you’re nerdy enough to dive into “behind the scenes” extras, all the grunt work needed to make a blockbuster franchise looks… well… less exciting. Of course, once you discover how a film was made, you begin to appreciate its artistry on a whole other level.

I had the same feeling as I absorbed two weeks of conferencing in India with digital development and global health practitioners from around the world on behalf of Akros. At the Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) conference in Hyderabad, we joined global experts to share our practical experiences in applying new technologies across a wide spectrum of development and humanitarian programs. Akros also participated in the Health Data Collaborative’s community health experts’ consultation in Goa, The workshop convened academics, government officials, and implementers from eight countries to craft technical guidelines on digitizing mobile health data from community health workers, the volunteers who deliver critical services in the most remote regions of Africa and Asia.

From theorizing on the broad meaning of the “Data Revolution” down to nitty-gritty tech requirements of community information systems, the overarching theme of both events was mainstreaming technology into day-to-day operations of development programs. That means moving past the futuristic “gee wiz” stage of exploring what’s possible with ICT4D, towards setting practical expectations and realistic national strategies. This is very familiar territory for us at Akros, where we have a developed for applying practical informatics systems for a variety of complex development challenges, ranging from malaria prevention to education management.

Some of the tips shared at the ICT4D Conference might seem obvious in theory, but can be surprisingly rare in practice, especially in public health. For example, before you start an new system to collect community level health data, you ought to know what kind of data already exist, and ask real people how these data are used. This tactic was exemplified by Cooper/Smith, which presented a robust landscape analysis of HIV data in Malawi under the Kuunika – Data for Action! project. Their focus groups with stakeholders found over 3,527 unique data elements across five systems, informing 335 unique decisions. Detailed assessments like these will not only increase the use of routine health data for decision-making, but might catalyze new innovations to send data where its most needed. Ona presented on the tablet-based mSpray tool, deployed by Akros in Zambia, which gives managers of Indoor Residual Spray teams the localized geographic information they need to manage local spray operations. Mangologic and e-Registries also presented on two adaptive tools for health professionals to bridge individual-level patient records with population-level health management systems— two solutions which only arose from assessing what tools already exist, and finding their design inappropriate for the complex user needs.

The Elimination 8 Regional Surveillance Database (ERSD)

The Elimination 8 Regional Surveillance Database (ERSD)

By Annie Martin on May 8, 2017 in Capacity Building, Health Data Systems, Malaria, News

To achieve malaria elimination, an understanding of neighboring country malaria situations is critical for the prevention of introduction of parasites. Malaria parasites don’t stop at country borders, so effective elimination strategies shouldn’t either. That is why the Elimination 8 (E8), in its strategy on cross-border collaboration, identified Akros to support the development of the E8 Regional Surveillance Database System (ERSD) for the eight member states constituting the E8: Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. This innovative approach is a means to level the playing field and conduct malaria surveillance at a regional scale.

Figure 1. Cross-border incidence* in districts in Zambia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe: Having access to several countries in one database allows these kinds of visualizations, which may highlight transmission patterns that occur between countries, which in turn supports decisions to invest in control methods in border areas.
*All data shown is used purely for illustrative purposes and do not reflect current or historic epidemiological status of countries. Current data can be accessed in the database itself by those granted authority.

Malaria is hardly an emerging disease, and though the interventions of preventing, treating, and monitoring malaria are somewhat standardized, each country has slight permutations of their approach to doing so. Indicators may differ slightly, investment in one prevention method versus another likely differs too, and policies surrounding implementation certainly are not identical.

Mobile Platform Enables Unprecedented Sanitation Uptake in Zambia

Mobile Platform Enables Unprecedented Sanitation Uptake in Zambia

By Akros Media on February 15, 2017 in Health Data Systems, News, Water and Sanitation Health

CLTS has been shown to be an effective method to combat malnutrition and stunting in children under five. In this study, a mobile-to-web platform increased the uptake of CLTS even further, allowing for greater community feedback, a reduced cost per new user of sanitation, and increased data transparency.

Akros, in partnership with Zambia’s Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) and UNICEF, layered a unique mobile-to-web application over traditional CLTS delivery methods, resulting in an innovative service delivery and monitoring system dubbed “CLTS M2W.”

CLTS M2W uses mobile phones, automated data feedback loops, and engagement of traditional leaders to provide communities with the ability to clearly see their progress towards sanitation goals. CLTS M2W paved the way for unprecedented CLTS uptake in Zambia, facilitating the creation of over 1,500,000 new users of sanitation in 18 months. In short, CLTS creates the demand, and CLTS M2W creates the critical transparency necessary to drive sustained behavior change.

Read the full study in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Read this and more CLTS-related news on the CLTS Knowledge Hub.

Gavi Pacesetter organizations

Gavi Pacesetter organizations

By Akros Media on February 8, 2017 in Health Data Systems, News

GAVI is an international organization – a global Vaccine Alliance – bringing together public and private sectors with the shared goal of creating equal access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries. It is backed in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

GAVI held its first INFUSE workshop (Innovation for Uptake, Scale and Equity in immunization) in Geneva. Around 60 organizations and companies applied to the program, and 18 of these projects were selected for a final round of vetting in front of a panel with representatives from the organizations and companies like the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. At the end of the workshop, the panel selected seven “pacesetter” organizations who will work with GAVI to scale up their ideas and projects and bring them to new countries.

We are excited to announce that Akros has been selected as one of these seven pacesetter organizations for a concept that follows in-line with our approach of gathering village level information to inform decision making. The approach takes existing monitoring tools in the country, like stock monitoring and commodities tracking, and merges them into a single vaccine-tracking database using a platform called DHIS2. In the database, Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) log immunizations delivered using simple feature phones. Parents of children due for their next immunization receive SMS appointment reminders along with a list of clinics that have the vaccine in stock. The RHC also receives a list of patients in the area who are due for follow-up vaccination appointments.

“Vaccine coverage has made big leaps, but until we reach the last mile of care, we won’t see disease elimination,” said Akros Portfolio Lead, Laurie Markle. “We are excited what this partnership could mean for reaching the ‘fifth child,’ not just in Zambia but around the globe.”

Akros shares its designation as a 2016 Gavi Pacesetter with six other organizations: Shifo, IRD, KhushiBaby, Energize the Chain, Broadreach, and Nexleaf Analytics.

As part of the partnership, Akros and GAVI will work closely over the coming year to identify resources and partnerships that will enable both implementation of the program and maximum impact.

Building one of the world’s largest data surveillance platforms

Building one of the world’s largest data surveillance platforms

By Alexis Barnes on September 19, 2016 in Health Data Systems, News

Leveraging a massive network of community volunteers, Akros works with the Zambian government and UNICEF to manage one of the world’s largest data surveillance platforms. The platform, designed and scaled for monitoring sanitation uptake in rural villages, relies on a network of over 3,600 community champions (CCs), environmental health technicians (EHTs), and other government representatives at the district level to report on sanitation uptake from ~ 21,000 villages across Zambia using mobile devices. The sanitation platform, which includes information on community and school led total sanitation and facial and environmental cleanliness for trachoma elimination is the largest surveillance platform in Zambia. However, Akros also supports similar community data collection systems in Zambia for malaria, education and land tenure. The systems, although different in content, all funnel data up from the community level into national level DHIS2 databases using similar technology. Many of the community volunteers use their mobile phone to collect data for more than one of the systems, reporting on multiple issues simultaneously such as latrine standards and mosquito net usage in their communities.

How does this work?

Across all sectors, it begins with a feature phone, a simple Nokia model mobile device. In their respective sectors, volunteers visit the households in their specific catchment area and survey specific indicators such as hand washing stations, proper number of mosquito nets per household member and latrine covers. They then input this information into the mobile phone DHIS2 platform for that month. With consistent data input, the software then allows anyone with a username, password and Internet access the ability to see up-to-date data on malaria, sanitation and trachoma statistics for different districts and provinces in Zambia. In community-led total sanitation (CLTS) alone, more than 1,300 village-level Community Champions (CCs) provide monthly reports to DHIS2 from over 13,500 villages.

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

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

By Brian O'Donnell on December 18, 2015 in Health Data Systems, News

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.
Akros Contributes to mHealth Journal

Akros Contributes to mHealth Journal

By Alexis Barnes on November 12, 2015 in Health Data Systems, News

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.

Zambia Systems for Better Health consortium created

Zambia Systems for Better Health consortium created

By Akros Media on November 9, 2015 in Capacity Building, Health Data Systems, News

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.