THE BLOG

Mobile Technology Used for the First Time to Beat Leprosy

27/05/2016 14:19 | Updated 27 May 2016

tech-for-good

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Over the years, our expertise in leprosy has meant that we have become innovators and leaders in the field fighting against it, and other neglected diseases. This year is no different as we, at Lepra, pioneer the use of mobile technology along with standardized questionnaires in our work, and it's helping us to change lives.

We work on the ground in India, Bangladesh and Mozambique tackling leprosy and other neglected diseases like lymphatic filariasis and malaria.

To monitor our work and assess our impact, our team has put together a standardized questionnaire and used innovative technology to make those surveys and the findings available worldwide on mobile phones. This means that those working in our projects are now able to collect vital information that has never before been gathered on such a scale. So far, we have collated detailed information on 1540 people that we work with, giving us an unprecedented picture of their lives and our impact.

Access to surveys on mobile phones sounds so simple but, combined with business analysis technology, the data collection method is having a huge impact. These findings are allowing us to refocus our work and meet the need more aggressively. Overall, access to this data is allowing us to learn, improve and change more lives.

The survey asks individuals the same questions regardless of location and identifies key statistics such as how many days of school are lost due to leprosy, how many of those with the disease are children and how severely leprosy affects income.

One our recent findings revealed high figures of misdiagnosis of leprosy in certain areas within the state of Odisha in India. In reaction to this, we are now looking to provide more health education sessions for government health workers in those specific areas. Similarly, we will also be implementing a public health awareness campaign across the state so that the general public will be more aware of the symptoms and availability of treatment for leprosy.

Gathering such data is allowing us to identify what more we can be doing to help those affected by neglected diseases.

Other findings showed that discrimination of those with a neglected disease is more prevalent within families than expected. This reinforced our belief that more needs to be done to reduce stigma around leprosy and so, we will be continuing our health education activities among communities. We can now also see how many days of work are lost due to leprosy. On average that number is 8 days per month and to combat this we provide skills training and help advocate for disability grants.

Having been piloted by our staff in a few of our selected projects this year, the data collection method will now be rolled out across the rest of our work in India, Bangladesh and Mozambique.

The innovative use of free software and some internal crafting of questions has allowed us to process this at low cost. Further funding for the mobile phones and training could help us to scale this further and ultimately change more lives.

For more information about Lepra, visit: www.lepra.org.uk

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