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

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

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

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

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.

How to Harvest the Health Data Revolution

By Brian O'Donnell on September 16, 2015 in Health Data Systems, News

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:

GRZ/Akros highlighted in DHIS2 newsletter

By Akros Media on April 16, 2015 in Capacity Building, Health Data Systems, Malaria, News

The creators of DHIS2 at the University of Oslo highlighted Akros this month in their most recent newsletter. They shared a prezi that walks through how DHIS2 is used in Zambia, specifically the innovative new system The Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) has created with technical assistance from Akros, to reach its goal of eliminating malaria country-wide by 2020. One of the components of this system centers around community-level malaria surveillance and leverages community health worker (CHW) networks in two main areas:

1. Finding, treating and reporting all malaria infections in the community
2. Reducing the burden of outpatient care and staff work load at the health facility through expanding access to malaria diagnosis and treatment by CHWs at community level.

Check out the prezi below, then click here to learn more about Akros’ work in community-level malaria surveillance.

[icon size=”22″]icon-file[/icon] Download a PDF about community-level surveillance.

Akros assists mapping of Ebola virus in Mali

By Maswabi Precious Matantilo on January 2, 2015 in Capacity Building, Health Data Systems

As part of its humanitarian support to the Republic of Mali, Akros has been conducting a five-day mapping exercise of Bamako, Mali’s capital, which has been hit with the Ebola virus. The mapping exercise has been done with the use of OpenStreetMap (OSM), an open initiative to create and provide free geographic editable data of the world map. The community’s contributors include enthusiast mappers, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) professionals, engineers running the OSM servers and humanitarians mapping disaster-affected areas.

Akros, having health data systems at the centre of its work, has become part of this global mapping community and is currently working with other contributors to ensure that geographical data about Bamako is made available. Two GIS clerks have been working with supervision from Akros GIS experts in Lusaka to provide data on features such as highways, pedestrian paths, buildings, and water bodies. The mapping work Akros is conducting for Ebola efforts is very similar to activities conducted this past year to plan for and implement malaria interventions in Zambia. “Akros looks for opportunities to take methodologies or lessons learned in one sector and apply them to other areas of health to create impact,” said Akros CEO, Anna Winters. “Related to the devastating Ebola epidemic, we have wanted to support the critical field activities in anyway we can. Our team of GIS mappers have added great value by taking mapping methods we developed in sub-saharan Africa for malaria prevention and applying these to map Ebola-epidemic areas. These maps are extremely beneficial to plan the logistics and implementation of crucial Ebola-related health services”

University of Montana student works with Akros in Zambia for her practicum

By Maswabi Precious Matantilo on November 20, 2014 in Capacity Building, Health Data Systems, Water and Sanitation Health

Akros has recently begun partnering with university graduate programs to offer practical knowledge and experience to students with an interest in health around the world. Annie Glover, a Masters student in Public Health at the University of Montana in the United States is one of those students, and has been in Zambia for the past month. “I have always wanted to pursue public health, meet new people, experience new culture and give back to society” said Glover.

Annie’s time in Zambia was spent learning the intricacy of the work community health workers and volunteers do. Her work also involved identifying avenues that Akros can use in collaborating with other like-minded organisations in order to increase its efficiency and effectiveness.

Pilot using Android tablets to combat malaria is Conducted

By Zunda Chisha & Maswabi Precious Matantilo on October 4, 2014 in Health Data Systems, Malaria, News

Using technology to improve health systems is a large part of the Akros ethos. Since the inception of the malaria Active Infection Detection (AID) program in 2011 in the district of Lusaka, several successes have been scored in the fight against the disease. Much of this involved the development of a system to locate areas of potential local transmission of malaria in the heart of the capital. This allowed for better targeting of interventions, and the system continues to be improved.

Recently, another innovation was introduced to the district, the use of android-based tablets for data capture at clinics and during field responses. More than 30 Health workers – mainly environmental health technicians and nurses from five government clinics within Lusaka district – were selected to attend the electronic data training. The two-day training, organized by the Zambia Ministry of Health with technical assistance from Akros, also drew representation from the National Malaria Control Center and the District Community Health Management Team.

Training participants learn to use Android-based tablets.
Training participants learn to use Android-based tablets.