January 26, 2010

EpiSurveyor: A Data Collection Tool Transforming Public Health for Underserved Populations

Mobile phones are widely used throughout the African continent and we are seeing unique services in health care, banking, and education. This blog has presented different telemedicine services and I think there is value in discussing an innovative solution that uses mobile phone technology and the Internet “to deliver more effective public health services throughout the developing world,” according to a Voice of America (VOA) report by Natalia Ardanza. This report provides another prime example of using information and technology (ICT) solutions in providing essential services for the world’s underserved populations. Click here to watch Ms. Ardanza’s video report. (Photos: DataDyne.org)

Joel Selanikio and Rosa Donna co-founded DataDyne.org, a nonprofit dedicated to providing sustainable information technologies in poor areas. Ms. Ardanza says that with financial support from the United Nations Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation, Selanikio developed EpiSurveyor -- a free, mobile, Web-based and open-source data collection tool that is transforming the way public health is practiced in under-served areas of the world.” EpiSurveror was developed in collaboration with the Kenyan Ministry of Health and DataDyne’s website notes that its “multiple-award-winning EpiSurveyor.org is the first web 2.0 application for international development and global health.”

Furthermore, according to Ms. Ardanza, “EpiSurveyor replaces cumbersome and costly paper-based data collection that can take months, and sometimes years to produce results. ‘Instead of collecting data today to plan for a campaign next year, changing from that to collecting data today to plan for what we do tomorrow,’ Selanikio explained. ‘That is a pretty radical change.’ Public health relies on the rapid collection of accurate data to track disease outbreaks, monitor vaccine supplies and other similar functions.” Watch a demonstration video of EpiSurveyor on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aS6R1fUCBU.

DataDyne provides consulting services combining information technology, mobile phones, epidemiology, public health, and clinical medical care into a valuable service in treating underserved populations in developing nations. According to DataDyne’s website, the Washington, D.C.-based organization creates and implements ICT solutions for a clinical setting, evaluating a public health program, or building a SMS-based drug notification system.

DataDyne’s EpiSurveyor is now used as a World Health Organization (WHO) standard method of data collection. In addition, more than 500 organizations in over 100 countries are using EpiSurveyor in areas such as agriculture and public opinion polling. In 2009, Dr. Selanikio was the recipient of the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability.

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