Great news from Botswana: improved testing shows fewer malaria cases2Comments
The results are in from our 15 month pilot malaria testing and mobile phone reporting project in Chobe District, Botswana. The fantastic news is that testing rates have improved dramatically as a result of the project training and support, with health workers now testing over 98% of all suspected malaria cases using rapid diagnostic test kits.
Chobe District, in the malaria prone North of the country, had one of the highest burdens of malaria cases reported, which is why the Malaria Team at the Ministry of Health asked for the project to pilot here. However, to our surprise and delight, almost all (97%) of suspected cases, when tested, were proved not to be caused by malaria.
The results of this project show that just 164 cases of malaria were reported in Chobe last year, a massive drop from the 2,092 cases reported in 2010. Whilst this drop is likely to be in part due to declining malaria in the region, the most significant change is the more accurate diagnosis and reporting of malaria cases. This is important for the patient, so that they can get the treatment they really need, and also for the country, so they can build a more accurate picture of how many and where the true malaria cases really are. Identifying the remaining malaria “hotspots” will help focus efforts in country’s drive to eliminate malaria.
The success of this project has catalysed a national roll out of diagnosis training by the Ministry of Health and a renewed emphasis on the importance of testing all suspected cases of malaria before giving treatment and of accurate reporting of results.
The Ministry of Health is also now planning to expand the mobile phone reporting element of this pilot to an additional 146 health facilities across five districts. They will look too at how this technology could be used to capture important reporting information for other diseases such as measles and cholera.
As one of the nurses involved in the pilot, Mma Felistus Muthambo said: “The project has been very helpful…I think that other diseases need to be reported in the same way as we are reporting malaria on the smartphones.”
As this pilot has shown using mobile phone reporting, combined with clever mapping and automatically generated analysis, gives district and national health officials real time data on crucial disease outbreaks, enabling them to plan and respond quickly using accurate information. Otherwise they have to wait for paper based reporting which can take over six days to reach the district level and even longer to input and analyse.
The Ministry of Health have been a key partner in this pilot project, and they are excited about the potential for developing and incorporating this new technology into their standard reporting mechanisms. We wish them every success in taking forward this work. We would also like to thank our partners in this project: the Ministry of Health; CHAI and PING, whose technical expertise was invaluable; and HP and MASCOM for the donation of smartphones and airtime to the project.