Interactive health information system to detect Japanese encephalitis in Asia


Voxiva and non-profit PATH team to track killer disease in India through phone and Internet

By pressing a few numbers on a phone keypad, health workers in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh in India will be able to report timely information in order to better respond to disease outbreak.

Health workers are participating in a pilot project that aims to demonstrate that effective use of information technology can support health systems to control Japanese encephalitis. In partnership with the government of Andhra Pradesh, Voxiva Inc., a global provider of health information solutions, is leading this pilot for PATH's Japanese Encephalitis Project. PATH is an international nonprofit organization that works to create sustainable, culturally relevant solutions, enabling communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. The goal of the project is to track–and ultimately reduce–the incidence of Japanese encephalitis through improved surveillance and response. Japanese encephalitis is a disabling and often fatal mosquito-spread disease that mostly strikes children under age 15 in Asian countries. The disease is related to West Nile virus, which now regularly appears in North America each summer, and infected over 1600 in the United States so far this year. Japanese encephalitis kills one-third of those infected, and causes severe disabilities in half of those who survive.

To successfully combat Japanese encephalitis, health officials need surveillance networks that allow them to respond quickly to reported cases and readily identify outbreaks. Voxiva has developed a phone- and web-based information system that uses existing communications infrastructure (e.g. mobile, pay and land-based phones). Health workers can use any phone to report confirmed and suspected cases of Japanese encephalitis.

All reported information will enter a single database. Health officials will log into the system via the web and can use the system's analytic tools to evaluate trends, identify outbreaks, and immediately deploy appropriate resources.

"This solution will break new ground in public health in India by providing district level managers access to timely data," said Madhu Krishna, country manager for Voxiva India. "This data will allow analysis of critical health information for rapid response and control of disease. It also will demonstrate how effective use of communication and information technology can save lives, and support health care even in remote areas."

Health managers also can use the system to analyze information about confirmed JE cases or suspected encephalitis cases and share technical information and resources with health workers. The Voxiva system will allow health managers to work collaboratively on disease prevention and control with international experts working on diagnostics, vaccine development and introduction, and clinical treatment.

"We are eagerly looking forward to seeing the Voxiva system put into effect. It should greatly facilitate our work, " said, Dr. Mastan Rao, Director of Health in Andhra Pradesh. Rao noted that the PATH project should help health workers to share information more efficiently, and help strengthen clinical services.

Based on the progress of the pilot, the system could be adopted for national use in India or for other diseases of interest, and ultimately improve national and subregional disease surveillance networks in other parts of Asia.

"Voxiva's innovative approach holds huge potential, because the system allows the information to be immediately available to all levels of the health system," said Dr. Julie Jacobson, PATH's Director of the Japanese Encephalitis Project. "Surveillance will be made easier by using Voxiva's system to share data. Control of the disease can be improved by getting information to health workers where they need it, when they need it. This can ultimately save people's lives."

PATH's effort to reduce the incidence of Japanese encephalitis is made possible by a 5-year, $27 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. One of the cornerstones of the JE Project is to improve clinical surveillance of Japanese encephalitis so health officials can fully understand the magnitude of the problem and target resources strategically based on disease burden. The JE Project also intends to increase the availability of a safe and effective vaccine to eventually rid the region of this disabling and deadly disease. The Voxiva system is able to quickly spread the word about new vaccines as they become available.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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