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. 

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

 

Ends

 

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)

Mapping Data Flows for COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Surveillance in Namibia

By Alinda Lauer on February 9, 2023 in COVID-19, Health Data Systems, News

Medicines and vaccines have transformed the modern world. Thanks to these innovations, diseases that used to kill large populations have been controlled over the past century, enabling more of the world’s population to live long and healthy lives and contribute to the global economy and scientific advancements. Key to the success of these tools is the science of pharmacovigilance­—the detection, assessment, understanding, and prevention of any adverse effects related to the use of a specific medicine or vaccine.[1] While all medicines and vaccines undergo rigorous clinical trials, such testing environments cannot account for all factors that products will come in contact with when used by large, heterogeneous populations over long periods. Due to time restraints and limitations on the types of individuals eligible to participate in clinical trials safely (typically not individuals with concurrent diseases, young children, or pregnant women), some side effects related to vaccine or medicine use can only be detected after the products have been widely released.

Countries require robust safety surveillance systems capable of timely detection, reporting, and analysis of adverse events in order to ensure the long-term safety of drugs and vaccines once they are available on the market. Such systems implement advanced pharmacovigilance approaches to ensure healthcare workers diagnose these events, quality data is captured for each event, and teams of experts are available to review the data and take appropriate actions. Ensuring comprehensive and timely surveillance is critical to individual patient safety and an essential factor in ensuring the public trust in medicines and vaccines.

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.

Akros joins Mastercard Foundation and Africa CDC’s Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative

By Akros Media on August 9, 2022 in COVID-19, Health Data Systems, News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August, 2022

 

We are thrilled to announce Akros Research has been awarded funding through Mastercard Foundation and Africa CDC’s Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative! The Mastercard Foundation is a Canadian foundation and one of the largest in the world with more than $40 billion in assets. The Foundation was created in 2006 through the generosity of Mastercard when it became a public company. Since its inception, the Foundation has operated independently of the company. The Foundation’s policies, operations, and program decisions are determined by its Board. Africa CDC is a specialized technical institution of the African Union that strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions as well as partnerships to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programs.

Saving Lives and Livelihoods is a partnership that enables the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines for at least 65 million people and supports the delivery to millions more across the continent. It will also lay the groundwork for vaccine manufacturing in Africa through a focus on human capital development, and strengthen Africa CDC. The partnership builds on the ongoing efforts of AVAT, COVAX, WHO, and local governments to provide access to vaccines to Africa and support the African Union’s goal of vaccinating 70 percent of Africa’s population by the end of 2022. This joint initiative will focus on four key areas:

  • Pillar 1—Purchase at least 50M COVID-19 vaccine doses
  • Pillar 2—Support deployment of COVID-19 vaccine doses
  • Pillar 3—Strengthen vaccine manufacturing of human vaccines
  • Pillar 4—Strengthen Africa CDC’s capacity and capabilities