Our Solutions

Strengthening Routine Immunization using Lessons learned from Polio Emergency Support

By Joshua Ozugbakun & Emerald Awa-Agwu

In July 2016, after over two years of being polio-free, two wild poliovirus cases were discovered in Borno State, Nigeria. This launched fresh efforts to strengthen the four pillars of polio eradication including Routine Immunization (RI), Supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) (including national Immunization Plus Days (IPDs)), Surveillance and targeted mop-up campaigns.

A health worker vaccinates a child with the Oral Polio Vaccine

A health worker vaccinates a child with the Oral Polio Vaccine

Partners, both local and international, collaborated with the Nigerian government at state and national level, through various interventions and projects to increase the coverage and effectiveness of IPDs and mop-up campaigns in order to increase herd immunity and stop polio transmission, especially in high-risk states like Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. These interventions were coordinated by the State Emergency Routine Immunization Coordination Centers (SERICCs). Each SERICC is led by individual state governments and help to improve information sharing, joint programming of public health emergency management activities (planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation) with partners. The National Emergency Routine Immunization Coordination Center (NERICC) is responsible for strategy development and oversees the activities of all the SERICCs. With this coordination mechanism in place, the menace of polio is being tackled collaboratively and Nigeria is well underway to being declared ‘Polio Free’, a major milestone in its vaccine-preventable disease management efforts.
A major takeaway for Nigerian polio eradication stakeholders after years of battling polio is the need for data collection, management and storage systems to be upgraded. As the need to halt poliovirus transmission increased, it became increasingly obvious that paper-based data management systems were incapable of providing decision makers with the reliable, actionable data which they needed for effective programming. eHealth Africa responded to this challenge by supporting states across Nigeria to develop comprehensive, digital maps using our expertise in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The accuracy of these maps improves the microplanning process and guarantees a greater coverage of settlements during campaigns.

Our GIS technology has improved the quality of maps used for polio campaign planning

Our GIS technology has improved the quality of maps used for polio campaign planning

In addition, through our Vaccinator Tracking Systems (VTS) project, GIS-encoded Android phones are used to record and store passive tracks of vaccinators as they conduct their house-to-house visits; allowing decision-makers to have an accurate picture of the settlements that have been covered during IPDS and mop-up campaigns. This data can easily be accessed through dashboards for a more detailed analysis and breakdown of coverage information.


Supporting polio emergency response activities also highlighted the need for the Nigerian health system to move from an emphasis on SIAs and campaigns to strengthening the RI and disease surveillance systems. Sound routine immunization and disease surveillance systems are necessary to sustain the herd immunity built through polio campaigns.

In Kano state, the LoMIS Stock solution helps the State Primary Health Care Management Board to ensure that the vaccine supply chain is maintained. Health workers at the facility level use the LoMIS Stock application to send reports on a variety of vaccine stock indicators including vaccine utilization, vaccine potency, stock levels, wastage rates, and cold chain equipment status. Supervisors access the reports through the LoMIS Stock dashboard and are able to respond appropriately. This ensures that the RI system is maintained and that health facilities are never out of stock.

In the past, Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance in health systems across Africa was passive. This meant that disease surveillance and notification officers (DSNOs) only reported or investigated suspected AFP cases that were presented at the health facility. According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1, over 72% of polio cases are asymptomatic and as such, will not present at the health facility. In addition, DSNOs are unable to visit every single community to actively search for AFP cases due to logistics and security challenges. Relying on data from passive AFP surveillance causes programs to be designed based on data that excludes the asymptomatic polio cases. Auto-Visual AFP Detection and Reporting (AVADAR) reduces the burden on the DSNOs by enlisting members of the community to actively find AFP cases and report using a mobile application on a weekly basis; thus, providing accurate real-time surveillance data that can be used for program planning and implementation.

An often overlooked factor that promoted the transmission of the poliovirus was the rejection of the polio vaccine by mothers and households due to various myths and socio-cultural barriers. By engaging traditional and religious leaders as ambassadors of vaccination, more mothers and households are accepting the polio virus.

The central lesson in Nigeria’s journey so far towards polio eradication is the importance of collaboration and engagement at all levels including communities. eHealth Africa is proud to be supporting governments and health systems across Africa to respond to the polio emergency.

Fighting Cholera with the Power of Geospatial Mapping

By Ayodele Adeyemo & Hawa Kombian

The Cholera Threat

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cholera (an infectious disease which causes acute watery diarrhea) remains a global threat to public health with an annual average of 82,000 deaths. In Nigeria, the cholera burden has been an average of 10,000 cases annually with over 70% of the cases coming from Bauchi, Yobe, and Zamfara states.

Following the review and recent publication of WHO guidelines on cholera control, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has begun the implementation of innovative approaches to tackle cholera via:

  • Strengthening disease surveillance for early detection and quick response through innovative use of technology and data.

  • Improving coordination for technical support, resource mobilization, and partnership.

  • Adopting a multi-sectoral approach to meet the 2030 cholera elimination by working with the environment and Water and Sanitary Hygiene sectors to ensure that communities have good water and sanitary facilities which will prevent further outbreaks

The Digital Health Advantage

What does an innovative model for cholera prevention and control look like?

In 1854, John Snow mapped out the cholera deaths during an outbreak and observed that they all occurred within short distances and were clustered around the Broad Street pump. He went ahead to carry out statistical tests to illustrate the connection between the source of water and the cholera cases.

In synergistic partnership, NCDC and eHealth Africa (eHA) used advanced geographic information systems (GIS) technologies to build on John Snow’s ideas of mapping. eHA uses data-driven solutions and tools to improve community health, with specific expertise in the design, development, validation, and deployment of predictive models for diseases like cholera.

GIS allow experts to explore different aspects of a geographical point. The identification of patterns can drive insights and enable health stakeholders to make informed decisions about how to best plan public health interventions. Due to computational and technological advancement, GIS has been used in public health for epidemiology, resource planning, and surveillance among others.  

NCDC and eHA were able to utilize GIS capabilities to enhance the data management within the NCDC National Incident Coordination Centre (ICC). The ICC serves as a the emergency operations center for coordinating disease outbreaks at the national level.


eHA’s GIS and Data Analytics team works with the NCDC to map cholera hotspots (areas where cholera persists) across Nigeria’s Local Government Areas (LGAs). At the start of the outbreak, hotspot analysis helps determine where to vaccinate and what quantity of vaccines are required per LGA. This exercise ensures the effectiveness of the oral cholera vaccine immunization campaigns which are rolled out to stop the spread of disease.

In planning, data from 2012-17 displays the spread of cholera outbreaks and also shows the relative risks of the various LGAs which have reported an outbreak during the five year period.

The Big Picture   Data Source: Nigeria Centre for Disease Control

The Big Picture Data Source: Nigeria Centre for Disease Control

Data Source: Nigeria Centre for Disease Control

Data Source: Nigeria Centre for Disease Control

We layered the 2018 outbreak data with the historical hotspot analysis to identify specific trends and possible overlaps. The result of the hotspot analysis identified 83 LGAs as hotspots, with 87% reporting at least one case with over 70% of the burden from Bauchi, Kano, and Zamfara states. The LGAs identified as hotspots have enabled the government to make informed decisions about where to request vaccines to ensure that the most vulnerable areas are supported.

Data Source: Nigeria Centre for Disease Control

Data Source: Nigeria Centre for Disease Control

We continue to collaborate with the NCDC to strengthen cholera surveillance in Nigeria. The partnership ensures that data management and analysis expertise contribute to faster response and informed decision making before, during and after outbreaks.

This work was done in collaboration with the following partners:

  • Yennan Sebastian- NCDC

  • Adesola Ogunleye - NCDC

  • Heloise Lucaccioni - UNICEF

  • Helen Adamu - UMB

  • Kobi Ampah- WHO Geneva              










How eHealth Africa supports Universal Health Coverage across Africa

By Emerald Awa- Agwu

DSC_7187 (1).jpg

April 7 is World Health Day and this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

WHO: Universal Health Coverage - What does it mean?

Good health is crucial for developing economies and reducing poverty. Governments and decision-makers need to strengthen health systems so that people can get the healthcare and services that they need to maintain and improve their health, and stay productive.  However, improving access to health services is incomplete if people plunge further into poverty because of the cost of health care. WHO estimates that over 800 million people spend at least 10% of their household budget on health care which is indicative of catastrophic health expenditure (CHE).  CHE can mean that households have to cut down on or forfeit necessities such as food and clothing, education for their children or even sell household goods.

One of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 3—Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages— is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030. Therefore, achieving UHC has become a major goal for health system reforms in many countries, especially in Africa.

Through our projects and solutions, eHealth Africa supports countries across Africa to strengthen the six pillars of universal health coverage.

1. Health Financing for Universal Health Coverage

WHO recommends that no less than 15% of national budgets should be allocated to health. We believe that accurate and up to date data, can ensure that available health funds are better allocated. In Nigeria,  we worked with several partners to map and collect geospatial data through the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program. Data relating to over 22 points of interest categories including health facilities, was collected across 25 states and the Federal Capital Territory in Nigeria. This data helps decision-makers to distribute resources and plan interventions that target the people who need it most.

2. Essential Medicines and Health products

Vaccines are some of the most essential health commodities

Vaccines are some of the most essential health commodities

Countries decide what medicines and health commodities are essential based on the illnesses suffered by the majority or significant sections of their population. They must also ensure that quality, safe and effective medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and other medical devices are readily available and affordable.

When essential medicines and health products are procured, it is important to maintain proper records and to ensure that health facilities do not run out of stock. eHealth Africa created Logistics Management Information System (LoMIS), a suite of mobile and web applications, LoMIS Stock and LoMIS Deliver that address challenges in the supply of essential medicines and health products such as vaccines and drugs. In Kano State, health workers at the facility level use the LoMIS Stock mobile application to send weekly reports on the vaccine stock levels, essential drug stock levels and the status of cold chain equipment. Supervisors can view the reports in near real-time through the LoMIS Stock Dashboard and plan deliveries of medicines and health products to prevent stockouts of vaccines and essential drugs, using LoMIS Deliver. LoMIS Deliver reduces errors by automating the process of ledger entry to capture the number of vaccines on-hand at the facility and the quantity delivered.

3. Health systems governance

Health system governance according to the WHO is governance undertaken with the aim of protecting and promoting the health of the people. It involves ensuring that a strategic policy framework exists and providing oversight to ensure its implementation. Relevant policies, regulations, and laws must be put in place to ensure accountability across the health system as a whole (public and private health sector actors alike).  Effective health systems governance can only be achieved with the collaboration of stakeholders and partners who will support the government by providing reliable information to inform policy formulation and amendments. Over the years, we have worked with several partners to provide this support.

4. Health workforce

Health systems can only deliver care through the health workforce

Health systems can only deliver care through the health workforce

The attainment of UHC is dependent on the availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality of health workers1. They must not only be equitably distributed and accessible by the population, but they must also possess the required knowledge and skills to deliver quality health care that marries contextual appropriateness with best practices.

Recognizing this, eHA supports the Kano State Primary Health Care Management Board (KSPHCMB) to improve health service delivery by providing health workers in Kano State with access to texts, audio courses, and training modules through an eLearning solution. Through the eLearning web and mobile-enabled platform, health workers can gain useful skills and knowledge on a wide range of topics. Read about the pilot of the eLearning solution here.

In Sierra Leone, we work with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) to implement the Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP). Through FETP, public health workers at the district and national level gain knowledge about important epidemiological principles and are equipped with skills in case/ outbreak investigations, data analysis, and surveillance. This positions Sierra Leone to meet the Global Health Security Agenda target of having 1 epidemiologist per 200,000 population. In addition, we support Sierra Leone’s MoHS to build additional capacity in frontline Community Health Officers (CHOs), who are based at the Chiefdom level through the management and leadership training program. CHOs are often the first point of contact for primary care for the local population and the MLTP program equips them to provide better health services and improve health outcomes at their facilities.

5. Health Statistics and Information Systems

In line with our strategy, we create tools and solutions that help health systems across Africa to curate and exchange data and information for informed decision making and future planning.  The Electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (eIDSR) solution has been used in Sierra Leone and Liberia to transform data collection, reporting, analysis, and storage for a more efficient response and surveillance of priority diseases. Its integration with DHIS2, a health information system used in over 45 countries, makes it easy for health system decision makers to visualize data and gain insight into the state of public health. Read more about our other solutions Aether and VaxTrac. In addition, we also support the Nigeria Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) by creation and maintenance of a data portal which serves as a repository for all datasets that are relevant to detecting, responding and preventing disease outbreaks in Nigeria.

6. Service delivery and safety

Staff at the Kano Lab

Staff at the Kano Lab

The Service delivery and safety pillar encompasses a large spectrum of issues including patient safety and risk management, quality systems and control, Infection prevention and control, and innovations in service delivery. With our experience working to respond to polio and ebola virus emergencies across Africa, we support health systems to mount prevention and control programs at the national and facility level. We are also committed to creating new technologies and solutions that can help health providers to develop better models of healthcare. We also construct health facilities ranging from clinics to laboratory and diagnostic facilities that utilize state of the art technology to correctly diagnose diseases such as Sickle Cell Disease, Meningitis, and Malaria.

Our Sokoto Meningitis Lab has been at the forefront of meningitis testing and surveillance in Northern Nigeria, offering reliable and prompt diagnoses to support the prevention of future outbreaks.

eHealth Africa continues to work with governments, communities and health workers so that everyone can obtain the quality health care, in a prompt manner and from health workers and facilities within their communities, thus achieving universal health coverage.

eHealth Africa and partners boost Sierra Leone’s surveillance capacity through 117 Call Center

Photo caption: Alexander Taylor, 117 Call Center Manager conducted a tour of the upgraded facility

Photo caption: Alexander Taylor, 117 Call Center Manager conducted a tour of the upgraded facility

Between 2018 and 2019, eHealth Africa (eHA) and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) worked together to ensure that Sierra Leone’s surveillance efforts were strengthened through the use of 117 Call Center.

The 117 Call Center is a Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation initiative that was set up in 2012 as part of a wider support system to improve maternal and child health. In 2014, eHA partnered with the Ministries of Health (MOH) in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to scale up existing universal toll-free numbers to become Ebola focused call centers. The 117 Call Center was scaled-up in response to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak - to serve as a tool to document, track and provide follow-up on suspected EVD cases and deaths. The 117 Call Center provides an early warning mortality and syndromic surveillance system tool that can detect, prevent and respond to disease outbreaks. Communities are sensitized to call the 117  line and report all deaths, suspicious illnesses, and events. In Sierra Leone, the 117 Call Center has helped to solve many issues like improving community death reporting through mortality surveillance; real-time alert reporting for infectious death, increasing alert and data support to the maternal & perinatal disease surveillance.

Recently, the 117 Call Center has seen major transformation-from extending the facility and giving it a facelift, to upgrading software for a more efficient system that the peoples of Sierra Leone can trust and utilize.

We have upgraded the call center software for a more accurate and precise data collection. Our community health workers play a very vital role in reporting cases to 117. We have added a new caller category of Community Health Workers. We also provided internet services for all the districts for real-time reporting and data collection for 117. We have also improved on our SMS software service that now provides a single text code to a caller to receive the burial code which confirms that they have indeed called 117.
— Sally Williams, 117 Project Manager, eHA.

In an effort to get the districts more engaged, 117 is not just centralized in Freetown. Alert desks have been set up in all 14 districts with District and Data coordinators there to manage the calls in real time.

The 117 Call Center is making positive strides in the country and the upgrade has taken it to international standard. 117 is easier to rebrand, given its popularity across the country.
— Dr. A.J. Moosa, Deputy Director - Health Security and Emergency.

Strengthening the surveillance system in Sierra Leone through the 117 Call Center is an unending quest.

We are planning on re-branding 117 and utilizing the social mobilization officers especially in the districts so that we can reach a greater number of our communities and encourage people to call 117 for any and all emergencies!
— Sally Williams

The 117 Call Center actively participates in the Surveillance Technical working group of the government of Sierra Leone’s One Health Approach Initiative, where the most updated information is shared as received via our call centers to guide interventions. Every day, the 117 Call Center is striving to produce better quality data to drive the evidence-based approach when handling public health issues in the country.

The Importance of High-Quality AFP Surveillance Data in the Fight to Eradicate Polio

Polio is targeted for eradication because the presence of the virus anywhere means that children everywhere are at risk. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) focuses on strengthening Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance worldwide to detect and respond to the poliovirus, to build herd immunity to protect the population and to halt the transmission of the virus. The data on the spread of AFP is invaluable especially for polio-endemic countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria because it helps in determining whether they can finally be certified polio-free.

IMG_20181211_151636.jpg

There are four steps involved in AFP surveillance and the Auto- Visual AFP Detection and Reporting (AVADAR) project responds to the first step—finding and reporting children with AFP—in eight priority countries in Africa. In many of these countries, disease surveillance and notification officers (DSNOs) at the health facilities are unable to actively find AFP cases for reasons ranging from difficulty in accessing settlements to security challenges. AVADAR trains community informants to search for and report the presence and/or absence of children with AFP in their community, using a mobile application. The application also has an embedded video that shows a child with AFP so that community informants can better recognize an AFP case. This reduces the burden on the DSNOs and allows them to focus on confirming if the case is truly AFP or not.

How AVADAR works

Data Process.png

To ensure that AFP surveillance is conducted impactfully and that the AFP surveillance data collected is accurate, timely and of high quality, the GPEI defined five global indicators: Completeness of reporting, Completeness of case investigation, Completeness of follow-up, Sensitivity of surveillance and Laboratory performance.

Global Polio Eradication Initiative: AFP Surveillance indicators

Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 10.26.24 AM.png

AVADAR was designed by eHealth Africa, Novel-T, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, to contribute to the achievement of the above targets. Below are the measures that have been put in place to ensure the collection and use of high-quality data to track and reports suspected AFP cases, and to inform decision making for polio eradication.

  • Coverage: To decide where to site an AVADAR system, WHO carries out an assessment of the target country/districts to identify rural, hard-to-reach and underserved communities which are typically more predisposed to poliomyelitis. The AVADAR system, equipped with geospatial tracking capabilities is then deployed to community informants/ AFP reporters. This unique feature of the application helps to validate the location of the suspected AFP case, independent of the reporter.  

  • Reporting: The AVADAR application allows informants to deliver reports anywhere and anytime in order to prevent data loss and to ensure near real-time, accurate reporting.  The app is designed to be used by people with basic literacy levels and is available in eighteen local African languages for ease of understanding. A report is better able to provide insight and enhance planning or decision making when it is timely. One of the key weekly metrics captured on the AVADAR dashboard is the number of complete results that were submitted as at when due, thus ensuring that all informants are actively engaged. Informants are expected to look out for and report cases of children aged 15 years and below, who have any form of physical deformity on the limbs or arms. In the event that no AFP case has been sighted within a week, the informant must send a ‘no report’, to validate his presence on the system.  

    AVADAR has improved the rate of AFP reporting compared to the traditional system of AFP reporting. For example, between June 2017 and June 2018 in the Lake Chad Basin countries(Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon), the AVADAR system recorded 589 supsected cases against the 213 cases recorded by the traditional AFP Surveillance system.

  • Verification: Paralysis in children can be caused by several agents including the Poliovirus. After the community informants submit their reports of suspected AFP cases, trained health workers carry out further investigations to confirm if they are true AFP cases. The WHO has designated laboratories all over target countries that are certified to test fecal samples and isolate the poliovirus. AVADAR weekly reports show how many suspected AFP cases were reported, how many were tested and the number of cases confirmed to be true AFP cases. This sort of data measures the cost of a single confirmed AFP case, the prevalence and incidence of AFP in target areas, thus enhancing the quality of AFP surveillance data for decision making.

AVADAR dashboard

AVADAR Surveillance.PNG

Having data on the spread of AFP in a geographic location helps with planning towards its containment. Since Poliomyelitis is mainly oral-fecally transmitted, sanitization and sensitization of the environment and inhabitants respectively can help reduce the spread of polio.  AFP data gathered across different locations has been used in making an informed decision on determining the number of health workers that can effectively manage its spread to neighboring communities. On the contrary, no data or false data could lead to health workers focusing their energy in wrong locations thereby risking the spread of polio and the extension of its existence.

Without reliable and accurate AFP surveillance data, true progress towards polio eradication cannot be measured. AVADAR’s impact in high-risk countries across Africa demonstrates how context-appropriate interventions and solutions can transform disease surveillance and emergency management systems.

One of the most important features of the AVADAR system is the engagement of over a hundred community informants per county. They are trained and equipped for the first time to provide timely reports that can be accessed at all levels from the county to the national level and beyond, thereby allowing suspected cases to be investigated in an accurate and efficient way.
— Dr Sylvester Maleghemi, WHO Polio Eradication Initiative Team Lead, South Sudan

Benefits of a Direct Delivery Model

By Adamu Lawan and Emerald Awa- Agwu

eHealth Africa's third- party logistics service, VDD ensures that vaccines are delivered to last mile health facilities in a timely manner

eHealth Africa's third- party logistics service, VDD ensures that vaccines are delivered to last mile health facilities in a timely manner

Vaccination is one of public health’s most cost-effective interventions. According to the World Health Organization1, it prevents between 2 million to 3 million deaths every year. Even though there has been great progress towards achieving universal coverage, there are still 20 million unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children worldwide. To reach these children and to meet global disease elimination targets, all countries must provide an uninterrupted supply of potent vaccines to the most hard-to-reach and conflict-affected areas.

Nigeria has experienced challenges in maintaining functional vaccine cold chains and supply chains, leading to low vaccination coverage rates. Nigeria’s cold chain system consists of five levels: a national cold store which stores all vaccines in the country and supplies six zonal cold stores located in each of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones. The zonal stores supply vaccines to the state cold stores, which in turn supply the LGA cold stores. The primary health care facilities staff have to visit the LGA cold stores to collect their vaccines on a weekly or daily basis depending on the status of their cold chain equipment.

Direct delivery model 2.png

This system was inefficient and time- consuming because health workers from over 9,000 health facilities in Nigeria often had to leave work to collect vaccines when they could be treating patients instead. In addition, the system was fraught with high operational costs and poor vaccine stock visibility, especially in transit.

To alleviate this problem, the Nigerian government adopted a direct delivery model called Push Plus in 2013, to transform its supply chain at the state level. A direct delivery model is one which delivers vaccines and dry goods directly from the state cold store to the last mile health facilities according to customized schedules, bypassing the LGA warehouses completely and preventing stock-outs.

The benefits of this model have been enormous. The direct delivery model has freed up an additional 1- 6 hours each week for health workers to attend to patients—time previously spent by health workers in transit to obtain vaccines. In addition, vaccine availability at the last mile health facilities has improved. By increasing the number of health facilities that have functional cold chain equipment, health posts and smaller health facilities can receive vaccines from closer health facilities instead of going to the LGA cold store every day. This has led to a massive drop in the stock-out rate. In Kano state, vaccine stock-out rates dropped from 93% to 3% and in Lagos State, from 43% to none. Not surprisingly, the immunization coverage of Lagos State increased from 57% to 88%. WHO2 lists vaccine shortages and stock-outs as a major cause of missed opportunities to vaccinate.

Nigeria is projected to spend about US$ 450 million by 2020 on vaccines, By increasing vaccine accountability and visibility, the direct delivery model has also reduced the amount of money that could be lost due to wastage and pilfering of vaccines.

eHealth Africa implemented Vaccine Direct Delivery, a third-party logistics service based on the direct delivery model in Kano State from 2014 to 2016 and currently implements it in Bauchi and Sokoto states. We work with the state primary healthcare development agencies to ensure that vaccines and dry goods are delivered safely and in a timely manner to health facilities. Using our LoMIS Deliver solution, eHA plans, schedules, and routes deliveries to enable health delivery officers choose the correct quantity of vaccines and dry goods from the state cold stores and deliver them to health facilities equipped with cold chain equipment. The process of determining what quantities to deliver at the health facility is fully automated to avoid manual errors. The project also incorporates reverse logistics—returning balance stock or waste, if any to the state cold store. VDD provides governments and other stakeholders with accurate, near real-time data for decision making and forecasting.

Through VDD, over 28 million doses of vaccines have been delivered to health facilities in Kano, Bauchi and Sokoto State from 2014 to date, reaching over 13 million children under the age of one. eHealth Africa continues to support governments across Africa with system-level approaches to transforming health service delivery.

Practical Solutions to Challenges in Reporting: LoMIS Stock and eIDSR

By Abdullahi Halilu Katuka and Emerald Awa- Agwu

LoMIS Stock is an electronic stock management tool, developed by eHealth Africa as a part of a suite of mobile and web applications that address supply chain and logistics challenges in health systems, especially in Northern Nigeria. LoMIS Stock helps health workers report and keep track of vaccine stock usage and availability at the health facility level. Using these reports, their supervisors can prevent stock-outs at their health facilities by ensuring that vaccines and other commodities are always available. The information from LoMIS Stock also gives governments the real-time data that is needed to plan programs and interventions and to resolve issues.

The LoMIS Stock solution was introduced to Kano State in 2014 and is currently the official logistics management tool for Kano State Primary Health Care Management Board (KSPHCMB). Currently, the State cold store, all 44 Local Government cold stores, and 484 apex health facilities in Kano send weekly reports using the LoMIS Stock application.

lomis img.png

Although health facilities reporting times have dropped by over 50% and reporting rates have tripled since the introduction of LoMIS Stock, certain facilities in hard to reach areas were consistently unable to send reports due to mobile data network challenges. Gleaning from lessons learned from a similar challenge encountered with our electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response System (eIDSR) solution in Sierra Leone, eHealth Africa added an SMS compression feature to the LoMIS Stock application.

In Sierra Leone, we have recorded a significant improvement in the number of facilities that send timely reports using the eIDSR application. Health facility workers in Sierra Leone use eIDSR to collect data offline on epidemiologically important diseases and send surveillance reports. Initially, in areas with poor connectivity, the application would store the reports and submit automatically as soon as an internet or mobile connection became available. However, this meant that such facilities didn’t always meet the targets for timely reporting.

Introducing the SMS compression feature enabled health workers in the defaulting facilities to send their weekly reports using a USSD short code if an internet connection or mobile data was unavailable. Thanks to this feature,  all the districts in Sierra Leone consistently exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) African region and national report completeness and timeliness targets.

DSC02701.JPG

The USSD feature for LoMIS Stock has been piloted with the pharmaceutical department of KSPHCMB to monitor incoming and outgoing stocks and the results have promising. In the first month, the stock count report at the pilot health facilities shows 100% stock sufficiency reporting and 0% wastage. After the pilot period, the feature will be rolled out to all departments of KSPHCMB to allow better reporting and increased efficiency across health facilities in Kano state.

Innovative problem solving is one of our values at eHealth Africa and this is an example of how eHA develops context-specific solutions to problems in healthcare delivery.

DSC00690.JPG

eHealth Africa’s CornBOT wins Fall Armyworm Tech Prize for Frontier Innovation

Fall Armyworm (FAW) is a major farm pest capable of destroying 85 plant species including maize, sorghum, and tomato. Projections show that if FAW is not checked, sub- Saharan Africa could lose up to $13bn worth of food, keeping 300 million people in hunger.

In response to this, Feed the Future partnered with Land O’Lakes International Development and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture to launch the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize in March 2018. The prize sought for timely, context-specific entries that would enable smallholder farmers to identify, treat and track the incidence of Fall Armyworm in Africa.

CornBot mobile app

CornBot mobile app

eHealth Africa partnered with Dr. Cornelius Adewale, the Bullitt Environmental Fellow at Washington State University (WSU), to develop CornBot, a mobile application equipped with audio-visual algorithms to enable farmers to identify, detect, prevent, manage and control FAW on their farms. The app is very user friendly as it is also available in the farmers’  local languages.

The application also provides handy information that allows the farmer to make requests for specialist’s help where needed. CornBot also has a dashboard that provides real-time information and a heat map for CornBot-reported FAW diagnosis and detection to researchers, decision makers and other stakeholders for surveillance purposes and informed decision making.

Fall Armyworm Tech Prize - Frontier Innovation award

Fall Armyworm Tech Prize - Frontier Innovation award

Out of 225 applications from countries all over the world, CornBot scaled through four stages, including a user testing stage among smallholder farmers to ensure viability and effectiveness, and emerged as one of the 6 winners of the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize. At the AfricaCom Awards, eHealth Africa was presented with the Frontier Innovation award and was also awarded prize money of US $50,000.

About CornBot, the FAW Tech Prize panel had this to say, “CornBot had the highest testing score of all the solutions because the app’s interface was extremely easy to use and included a step by step FAW identification system for farmers. The solution is extremely comprehensive and accessible due to its use of human-centered design”

Through CornBot and our nutrition and food security systems focus area, eHealth Africa aims to develop data-driven, technological approaches to improving the quality and availability of nutritious food products throughout West Africa.

Aether 1.0 and Gather 3.0 software releases are out!

Today eHA and the Aether team reached an important development milestone in their contribution to the ehealth open source community -- the release Aether 1.0 and Gather 3.0.

The belief that timely access to accurate data can save lives drives our commitment to create open source software for the development and sustainability of ehealth solutions. We believe that by facilitating the collection, curation, and exchange of relevant health data, we empower decision makers and improve the effectiveness of public health interventions.

With this in mind, last year we started working on Aether, an ambitious project to create a framework for the development of ehealth solutions. We wanted to build a platform that could facilitate developers' work and ensure that ehealth products were built with the highest standards for interoperability, security, and privacy.

AetherGatherMilestonesTimeline.png
OPEN SOURCE RELEASE

We started transforming that vision into a concrete product in September 2017, and in July the following year, we celebrated the open source release of both Aether and Gather.

Aether is a reliable and secure development platform that enables organizations to build solutions that curate and exchange live information. Aether utilizes “data contracts” between systems, simplifies the movement of data between applications, and helps developers adhere to best practices for ehealth system design.

Gather is the first solution built on top of the Aether platform. Gather is a data collection and curation tool that securely collects data in the field and shares it everywhere it is needed. Thanks to Aether, Gather can perform data curation activities like data masking for privacy requirements and can easily be integrated with other systems and workflows for management, transformation, and analysis purposes.

We were committed to making these projects open source both as a way to give back to the public health community we have been active in for years and so that feedback could be used to quickly improve the solutions. Since their development and release, Aether and Gather have been used by eHA and our partners in a variety of projects.

DEPLOYMENTS

Understanding malaria awareness and practices among young people in Sierra Leone

In July 2018, we partnered with Restless Development and CUAMM Africa in Sierra Leone to provide data collection infrastructure for a malaria prevention campaign called "Youth-Led Malaria Prevention Messaging Survey".
The campaign aims to help public health authorities understand young people’s knowledge, attitude, and behavior towards malaria prevention and treatment. We use Gather for data collection and Aether to connect to a Kibana Dashboard for data analysis visualization. So far, 2,417 survey responses have been submitted.

Building a global high-quality humanitarian health facility database

In July 2018, we were awarded funding for a collaborative global health site mapping project with Healthsites.io. The objective of the initiative is to create a high-quality database that includes information on facility locations, medical staff, and services, which can be used to improve humanitarian crisis response. Data collectors will use Gather in the field to capture health facility data, which will then be connected and shared via Aether to Healthsite.io, Open Street Map, and Humanitarian Data Exchange.

Collecting geodata to gain insight into Nigeria and DRC Health and Demographics

In August 2018 we started implementing Aether and Gather in Kaduna State as part of the the GRID3 project, a multi-country initiative to support underserved communities by collecting and analyzing on points of interest such as settlements, roads, and hospitals. The geodata collected through Gather is automatically published via Aether to a publicly available, customized CKAN instance. As of October 12, 2018, 513,084 points of interest have been submitted through Gather.
Since August, eHA’s involvement in the GRID3 project has expanded into multiple states in Nigeria and to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). For its use in the DRC, we customized Gather in partnership with UCLA, CIESIN, Oak Ridge and Flowminder. The GatherDRC mobile app was built specifically for microcensus and other mapping tasks.

THE RELEASE AND NEXT STEPS

You can now download Aether 1.0 and Gather 3.0 and start using the software yourself.

Though this is an important milestone in our development process, it is only the beginning of a much longer journey. Currently, we are working toward the development of new features that will allow multi-tenancy, data validation rules, and workflows. In addition, connectors for other ehealth applications will be added, including:

BPMN: Integrate with Workflow processes and tools like Camunda

Zapier: Participate in data exchange with 100’s of existing Apps

DHIS2: Bi-Directional data exchange with DHIS2 API

FHIR: Bi-Directional data exchange via FHIR standard

We look forward to hearing your feedback on our products and hearing from interested organizations and potential partner that are interested in using Aether and Gather for the global good.

Get in touch with us at solutions@ehealthafrica.org

"Connecting the Dots - Geodata in Healthcare"- The eHA Meetup in Berlin

By Benedetta Ludovisi

Geographic data and accurate maps are essential for improving public health outcomes. Up-to-date information on where people live, the best way to reach them, and the location of nearby medical facilities is fundamental to enhancing healthcare systems. When settlements and points of interest are surveyed and mapped, frontline healthcare workers and medical supplies can reach even the most remote communities. The proliferation of geographic information systems (GIS) technology and spatially enabled data collection tools have helped governments and NGOs connect the dots in public health and improve effectiveness of health interventions.

Connecting the dots - Geodata in Healthcare” audience ready for the Q&A session

Connecting the dots - Geodata in Healthcare” audience ready for the Q&A session

Johanna Roegele, the Managing Director of eHA German office, welcomes attendees and introduces the speakers for the evening

Johanna Roegele, the Managing Director of eHA German office, welcomes attendees and introduces the speakers for the evening

In order to take a closer look at this topic, our Germany-based office partnered with Viderum to host "Connecting the dots - Geodata in Healthcare" on September 19 at the co.up coworking space in Berlin, the second in a series of technology and global health meetups in Germany.

Johanna Roegele (Managing Director, Germany Office, eHealth Africa) welcomed attendees and introduced eHA’s and Viderum's speakers for the evening. She also shared her vision for these meetups—a forum to share the work eHA does with Berlin’s tech and global health communities, and to create opportunities for innovative organizations to partner and learn from each other.

Sebastian Moleski, Viderum's CEO, introduces their mission to the audience

Sebastian Moleski, Viderum's CEO, introduces their mission to the audience

The second speaker was Sebastian Moleski (CEO, Viderum) who introduced Viderum as an expert in Open Data working with high-profile partners in the field of data and health. He explained that their mission is to make the world's public data discoverable and accessible to everyone by providing data management solutions and tools that not only allow the strategic use of data, but also play a crucial role in analyzing, tracking and predicting public health trends.

Dave Henry, eHA’s Director of Global Health Informatics, gave a presentation on eHA's use of GIS technology for the VTS project, aimed at polio eradication, a disease for which immunization requires at least three vaccine doses within a child’s first year of life. GIS technology has enabled vaccination campaigns to locate, reach, and vaccinate children in hard-to-find settlements.

Adam Butler, eHA Technical team lead in Berlin, gives a demonstration of eHA's data collection tool Gather

Adam Butler, eHA Technical team lead in Berlin, gives a demonstration of eHA's data collection tool Gather

After Dave’s overview of the effort to eradicate polio, its challenges, and the role of GIS technology in the initiative, Adam Butler (Technical Team Manager, Germany office, eHealth Africa) and Marko Bocevski (CTO, Viderum) got ready to demonstrate how geodata can be collected, shared and visualized using eHA’s and Viderum's tools.

Adam demonstrated eHA’s latest data collection tool Gather, built for secure, real-time, spatially-enabled data collection and map-plotting, to show how GPS-enabled devices can easily capture coordinates of health facilities, settlements, and roads.

Marko Bocevski, Viderum's CTO, shows the functionalities of Viderum's visualization tool for CKAN

Marko Bocevski, Viderum's CTO, shows the functionalities of Viderum's visualization tool for CKAN

Following Adam’s demo, Marko demonstrated the technology Viderum developed to enable the visualization and analysis of collected data. The tool, which can be connected to Gather, facilitates data-driven decision making, project planning, and implementation.  

Following the demos, we had time to engage with the audience and answer few of their questions that animated discussions around topics related to data privacy and local community engagement.

We would like to extend a special thanks to the speakers and audience members whose participation and collaboration were essential for the success of the event.




International Translation Day Spotlight: AVADAR

By Adaeze Obiako

avadar+interface.jpg
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
— Nelson Mandela

This year, the United Nations is celebrating “International Translation Day” for the first time. The celebration is an opportunity to pay tribute to language professionals, whose work plays an important role in bringing nations together, facilitating dialogue, fostering understanding and cooperation, and contributing to the development and strengthening of world peace and security.

For eHealth Africa (eHA), translation has been instrumental to the success of several projects, particularly the Auto-Visual AFP Detection and Reporting (AVADAR) project.

When AVADAR commenced in 2016, we knew it was a worthwhile intervention towards the eradication of polio in Nigeria; however, we could not have anticipated just how much of a positive impact it would end up having on the Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance system across Africa. Between 2016 and 2018, AVADAR grew from a small pilot in two states in Nigeria to a full-fledged project across 8 West and Central African nations. Several factors contributed to the success and scale of the project, one of which was the educational AFP video embedded in the AVADAR mobile app used to train community informants on proper detection (and subsequent reporting to health authorities) of AFP cases within their communities.

This is where language came in.

The project management team, made up of the World Health Organization (WHO), country Ministries of Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Novel-T, and eHA, knew early on that the key to ensuring accurate AFP detection and proper use of the AVADAR app for case reporting lay with developing a sense of connectedness and trust between all stakeholders (from project implementers to health workers to community informants) through the breakdown of language barriers.

Part of the pre-implementation phase in each country included research into what languages were spoken by indigenes using the AVADAR app and the AFP video, and the entire app was translated into each applicable language. Below is an example of the AFP video translated into Hausa, a local language commonly spoken in northern Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

In addition to the AFP video and app being translated into multiple languages, the training facilitators (who train informants on how to use the app) and field officers (who provide weekly phone troubleshooting support to informants) were all indigenes of the implementing regions and fluent in the local languages to ensure ease of communication and understanding for the AVADAR informants.

Results and Impact_.png

As AVADAR continues operation across Africa, it is clear that we have the power of translation to thank for bridging the gap and allowing thousands of community members and health workers across different African nations to support the fight against polio. At this rate, it won't be too long before polio, like smallpox, is considered a public health issue of the "past".






Preventing childhood diseases through Vaccine Direct Delivery

By Adamu Lawan

24,316,126 (1).png

The Challenge
In Northern Nigeria, vaccines are often unavailable at health facilities due to irregular deliveries. There are no systems in place to track inventory and movement of commodities between facilities and state cold stores. This has led to substantial stock outs of vaccines at last- mile health facilities and consequently, the inability of children under the age of one to access routine immunization services.

eHealth Africa’s solution
In 2013, eHealth Africa developed a logistics platform, LoMIS, to transport vaccines and dry goods from the state cold store to health facilities at the ward level that are equipped with cold chain storage facilities. The project was launched in Kano in 2014 and in Bauchi and Sokoto in 2015.
Following its success in the pilot LGAs of Bauchi State this year, the implementation of Vaccine Direct Delivery was scaled up to include an additional 148 health facilities in the northern clusters of Bauchi State.

The Impact

24,316,126 (3).png

Field Tracking System - transparency and efficiency redefined

Back in 2016, the Field Tracking System (FTS) was borne out of a need to provide a means for tracking vaccinators in Cameroon for the World Health Organization (WHO). The first system was developed as a collaborative effort between eHA and WHO to address the needs for polio vaccination tracking in Cameroon.
The question WHO Cameroon wanted to answer was "How do we know where the vaccinators have visited on a daily basis and how do we make adjustments to their plans while the are still in the field?"
The challenge was that vaccination teams were in extremely remote and unreachable villages for several days and they only had one chance to vaccinate children during campaigns. Any locations missed had to be addressed during the campaign.
The solution eHA and WHO Cameroon came up with was to use low-end smartphones to capture geo-coordinate information called "tracks" every 90 seconds to infer that locations where vaccinators stayed in for about 2 minutes, a vaccination occured. We deployed the offline system in Cameroon, powered by our robust database that contains attributes and constraints that could easily be modified and adjusted based on factors that affect where vaccinators have reached and the time spent there. Such factors include size of the house, village or community, security situation, road network, etc.
The output was an offline dashboard showing communities and households that were visited, partially visited, not visited, that the field teams used on a daily basis to assess their performance and readjust the next day’s plan during the campaign. This was great! And then users wanted more.

I am frankly delighted that we have introduced etracking. etracking has enabled us to know the serious and hardworking vaccinators and the unserious ones
— Head of Supervisors - Pagui, Cameroon January 2017

 

FTS is currently adopted in 3 African countries (Nigeria, Cameroon & Chad) for more generic tracking purposes of vaccinator and supervisory teams, sales teams, service administrators, data collectors. Some use cases worthy of note are:

 

  • User’s ability to define and modify campaigns by defining dates, with phones automatically sending tracks to a remote server and coverage automatically calculated. With the online and offline dashboard access, users can download reports and generate insights across multiple campaigns.

  • We work with our users to plan field activities on a daily basis based on predefined communities and attributes across static and dynamic administrative levels in any area.

  • Additionally, when our users need to collect sources of data while they are in the field, we can help them integrate the data with the FTS to provide more insights into the field work beyond coverage information. Case in point - WHO Cameroon & WHO Chad were able to corroborate coverage information from vaccinators with additional supervisory data that validated vaccination efforts by capturing actual number of children vaccinated using Open Data Kit (ODK) forms as an input. This means that coverage expectations of "visited" was complemented by the actual number of children vaccinated captured by ODK forms. This then helped them to further to investigate anomalies.

With the FTS, now we are 100% certain that we have reached everywhere in the islands
— Sam Okiror (Head, Lake Chad Task Team), June 2018

 

We are now working with our users to build a generic tracking and monitoring system that can be triggered by other inputs besides  geo-coordinates. Consider a system that reports coverage based on predefined user criteria and triggered by user-defined events or change in status. Ultimately, FTS will receive input from various sources both offline and online. We are excited about the possibilities with FTS and building collaboratively with our users to meet their specific demands.

Aether and Gather - Open Source Release

By Dave Henry & Benedetta Ludovisi

Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 2.35.35 PM.png

Today is a very special day for eHA and the Aether and Gather development teams. Today these two projects are finally being released as open source software!

Aether, the software development platform for data exchange, curation and publication, is available to anyone to be evaluated and used to jump-start the creation of data-driven ehealth solutions.

Gather, the Aether-based solution for large scale data collection is also available, providing an end-to-end pipeline for streaming Open Data Kit survey responses to the CKAN Open Data Portal and other applications.

Read more about the reasons we created these two projects in our interview with the Aether team, and get more information on the Aether and Gather microsites.

If you are eager to get your hands on the software, you can try it yourself by following the step-by-step Gather “getting started” guide.

We look forward to hearing your feedback on our forums, and to seeing the amazing things that you do!!

pasted image 0 (8).png
gather-logo.png
 

Sustaining impact: Lessons from Kano Connect’s handover

By Fatima Adamu and Abdullahi Halilu Katuka

Kano Connect is a communication and information sharing platform developed by eHealth Africa, with funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2014. It features electronic management tools such as comprehensive directories of all the health facilities and health workers across all levels in Kano State. Using the platform, health workers can submit and review reports on routine immunization from their mobile phones or through a dashboard.  Health workers on the Kano Connect platform can access the contact details of any staff and communicate for free within a closed user group resulting in prompt and quality reporting, improved visibility and effective accountability.

Kano Connect ODK Form

In 2016, eHA officially handed over the Kano connect project to the Kano State Primary Health Care Management Board. However, we continue to provide support and guidance in line with our vision. Prior to the handover, reporting rates through the platform were at an average of 25%. After the handover, reporting rates increased to an average of 95%.
This demonstrates the importance of working hand in hand with the states which we work in to ensure  the sustainability of our projects and our impact.
In this blog post, we share 2 key lessons from eHA’s approach to building state ownership of the Kano Connect platform

Lesson 1: Build capacity
In the course of the Kano Connect project, eHA conducted a total of 21 trainings and workshops for over 1400 health workers across all administrative levels of the Kano state health system. The health workers worked on diverse thematic areas such as Maternal and Child Health, Nutrition, Pharmaceutical Services, Epidemiology and Disease Control and Routine Immunization.
They were trained on how to use an android phone, send Routine Immunization supportive supervision reports using the Open Data Kit (ODK) e-forms, how to use the dashboard for decision making, reporting through the LoMIS Stock applications, using the LoMIS Stock dashboard for decision making ensuring that all the stakeholders understood the platform.

Kano Connect health workers.jpg

Lesson 2: Train your Replacement
eHealth Africa trained 5 health workers as the pioneer members of the Kano Connect Operations Unit to manage the day to day running of the Kano Connect project. The unit members were trained on the standard operating procedures of the eHA Kano Connect team and how to execute daily tasks including:  

  • Administrative management of the Kano Connect project

  • Capacity building of Kano Connect users, including onboarding of new users

  • Dashboard management (updating, adding, and deleting user information)

  • Collation of summary reports from dashboards

  • Information and data management through form hub

  • Conducting surveys (paper-based and electronic)

Presently, I’m a data management officer for Kano Connect. eHealth Africa trained me and other Kano Connect operation unit staff to manage Kano Connect dashboard issues like updating, adding, and deleting user information and exporting Information and data management through form hub to populate a report
— Shamsuddeen Muhammad, Kano Connect Data management officer

Presently, Kano Connect is piloting its e- learning mobile application and dashboard  in three local government areas: Fagge, Nassarawa and Gabasawa local government areas in Kano State. Kano Connect eLearning provides access to learning materials and resources that health workers can access on their mobile devices.

Once again, eHealth Africa is partnering with Kano State to ensure that that knowledge gaps are identified and that health workers can gain skills and knowledge for improved health delivery.

Aether - An interview with the team

eHealth Africa developers are active in a number of open source communities. Indeed, many of eHA’s solutions have incorporated open source software such as Open Data Kit (ODK), CKAN, OpenHIE, DHIS2, and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap (HOT).  We are just weeks away from giving back to the community in the form of two new projects - Aether and Gather. We’re excited to support others who are developing solutions for the global good.

aether_pic_final (2).jpg

We interviewed the team behind eHA’s Aether to discuss the reasons why they created an open source development platform for data curation, exchange, and publication.

Aether is being developed by a multi-country team working in three different continents, so it was a challenge to sit down with them all in one place. Still, we talked with four people key to its development and asked them what exactly Aether is and why eHA decided to create it. Our conversation included the Director of eHA’s Global Health Informatics Dave Henry, Aether Product Manager Doug Moran, Systems Architect Shawn Sarwar, and Technical Team Lead Adam Butler.

Why is eHA developing Aether?

During our discussion, Shawn Sarwar explained that throughout eHA’s years of experience developing ehealth solutions we faced recurring challenges when scaling the impact of our products within the communities we serve.

Although eHA develops great tailored solutions for specific problems and customers, we were not always leveraging possible synergies between different projects. Shawn gave three reasons why solutions are typically been developed as stand alone projects:

  1. Customization can create maintenance challenges. When multiple customers use a particular solution, a certain level of customization is required. The various codebases can drift apart, making it difficult to apply bug and security fixes across all of them.

  2. There isn’t always a standard set of components across projects. One team may know one technical stack, while another could have a different preference. This leads to the siloing of potentially useful components according to people’s comfort and familiarity.

  3. Almost every project needs to integrate with one or more external systems. Because of this requirement, teams normally plan to write their own integration to exchange data between different applications.

As a consequence, we became very good at creating variations of common solutions. But instead of reinventing the wheel each time, what if we could capitalize on a framework for the development of ehealth solutions? This, Dave Henry explained, is what drove eHA to develop Aether.

He explained that these challenges are not unique to eHA; they point to a broader issue that slows development and deployment of many healthcare systems. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions for global public health use cases rely heavily on open source software, but while individual open source applications have been put to good use, the ability to integrate them into sophisticated solutions has been limited to countries with sufficient funding and visionary, determined leadership. Dave explained that even the most successful solutions leave behind a legacy of isolated data silos. Last September, eHA decided to wrangle these problems by setting twin goals:

  1. Simplify the integration of popular ehealth applications.

  2. Provide a consistent way for data to flow from these applications directly to where it needs to go.

Today the Aether team is pleased to announce the results of this effort: the Aether platform and it’s first companion solution Gather.

What is Aether ?

Aether is a platform for data curation, exchange and publication.
— Dave Henry, Director of Global Health Informatics, eHealth Africa

More precisely, it is an integrated set of tools and services that allows developers to connect to data sources, interpret data structures, and map attributes into a normalized set of entities defined by a formal schema. Aether flows the resulting data in real-time to one or more downstream destinations. The publication process is open and modular – the destinations receive data based on the schema (a de facto contract) and are completely insulated from the source systems. Data can be delivered concurrently to multiple destinations.

In this way, Aether facilitates the flow of data between data-producing and data-consuming applications, enhances data security and privacy, and accelerates the transmission of data between organizations. Basically, Aether allows for faster and more accurate data-driven decision making that helps save lives.

Aether helps organizations exchange health data faster and easier, but most of all it improves the productivity of developers that create ehealth solutions. According to  Doug Moran, Aether is a product built by developers for developers to facilitate their work and free them to focus on the actual solution rather than infrastructure. Solutions become easier to deploy, maintain, and upgrade than traditional one-off projects built from scratch.  By building on a common foundation, the software development process becomes well defined, predictable, and repeatable.

Basically, Aether is a framework of best practices for ehealth systems design. The Aether developers have done much of the dirty grunt work so that the project teams can do the exciting and heroic stuff that solves real problems for real people.

And what about Gather ?

Dave also talked to us about Gather, the first solution and use case built on the Aether platform. Gather leverages Aether and 3rd-party open source software to collect and distribute data collected during large scale field surveys, receives survey data from forms submitted via Open Data Kit (ODK), and ingests it into an Aether pipeline for processing and distribution. The Gather solution includes the ability to flow data into ElasticSearch / Kibana as well as the CKAN Open Data Portal.  The Aether platform services are used to package and operate the ODK components, the Gather user interface, the Aether core modules and the Aether publishers.  Gather is just the first – but arguably the most universal – use case that eHA will address with Aether.

Technical Team Lead Adam Butler elaborated on the implementation of Gather across the countries where eHA’s operates. He explained that in Sierra Leone, the CHAMPS (Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance) network uses Gather to collect data as part of an initiative to identify and prevent child death. In Nigeria, the GRID (Geospatial Reference Information Data) project uses Gather to collect spatial reference data and other points of interest such as health facilities, schools, markets, and post offices to create a geo-database that the government uses for data-driven decision making. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the DRC Microcensus project used Gather to conduct a microcensus in the region of Kinshasa and Bandundu in order to predict how many people live in each settlement and estimate the total population for DRC, information that is playing a vital role in the current Ebola outbreak.

What is eHA’s vision for Aether ?

According to the Aether team, eHealth Africa’s goal is to establish and support a vibrant global community around Aether and Aether-enabled solutions. Aether serves three distinct purposes:

  1. A platform for integrating, distributing, and operating sophisticated solutions for specific ehealth industry use cases.

  2. A facility for organizations that are taking their first steps into data governance and (internal) application interoperability.

  3. A controlled “on ramp” for organizations that engage in formal data sharing using international standards.

Aether will be launched as open source software this summer. Stay tuned for the release announcement!

Solutions based on Aether enable faster and more accurate data-driven decision making that helps save lives.

Improving Coverage Rates, One Track at a Time

By Emerald Awa- Agwu and Friday Daniel

The real story of Nigeria’s immunization coverage rates is told at the ward level. For over five years, eHealth Africa through the Vaccination Tracking System program has been supporting the increase in immunization and geographical coverage rates of 4017 wards across 19 states.

eHA, through the Vaccination Tracking System program (VTS), acts as the eyes of the immunization coordination teams at national, state and local government levels. They are able to gain a deeper understanding and insight into what exactly takes place at the wards, communities and settlements during the house to house immunization campaigns.

Debriefing at a state- level review meeting in Sokoto State

Debriefing at a state- level review meeting in Sokoto State

The VTS program uses software- encoded phones that track, record and store the coordinates of their locations- and all the vaccinators have to do is take the phone with them on their vaccination exercises. eHA also deploys project field officers to each local government area, to handle any technical difficulties and to ensure that the data from the phones are uploaded to a dashboard.  At the review meetings that take place daily, eHA paints a picture of how much progress has been made- breaking it down to local government, ward and if necessary settlement levels.

Why is this Important?

Nigeria has always struggled to improve Routine Immunization (RI) coverage rates. The major challenge was the discrepancy between the high number of missed children discovered during monitoring visits and the high numbers of vaccinated children reported by field vaccination teams. Stories and reports of vaccinators pouring away vacci nesor refusing to visit settlements were common but holding them accountable was difficult.

In line with eHA’s virtuous cycle strategic model, the Vaccination Tracking System program arms the federal and state governments, ministries of health and partner organizations with reliable data and insight, that they can quickly use to make informed, evidence-based decisions. VTS  is a game changer because it helps the immunization coordination teams- World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health and partner organizations- discover exactly what settlements the  vaccinators have visited or not; as well as what locations they had visited within each settlement. VTS also gives the relevant partners a visual representation of which wards or settlements were underserved thereby, enhancing the ability of the national and state RI task teams to target such communities.

VTS motivates the ward focal persons (WFP) and LGA teams and removes the risk of complacency especially in wards with high coverage rates. Results of each campaign day’s activities are delivered by proportion of settlement type covered and overall percentage coverage for each ward. In other words, WFPs are told the percentage coverage of their wards that have been covered and locations where they need to pay more attention to. This inspires them to work harder and more efficiently.

VTS project coordinator, Friday Daniel at a ward- level review meeting in Sokoto state

VTS project coordinator, Friday Daniel at a ward- level review meeting in Sokoto state

VTS has improved the capacity of WFPs to investigate low coverage rates, get answers and where necessary, conduct trainings for the vaccinators. Through VTS, a WFP in Barawaga Ward of Bodinga LGA of Sokoto State discovered that his ward was recording low coverage rates, not because his vaccinators weren’t going to the communities but because they weren’t spending the required minimum time at each house. Empowered with this knowledge, he was able to train his vaccinators to observe best practices during the campaign. Where vaccinators consistently under- vaccinate, even after being trained, adequate actions can be taken.

The Vaccinator Tracking System is helping Nigeria, starting with the northern states to improve our coverage rates, one track at a time.

Increasing Sierra Leone's efficiency in disease detection with eIDSR

In a continued effort to increase the capacity of  Sierra Leone’s health systems, eHealth Africa (eHA) has partnered with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  to support the government of Sierra Leone by increasing the early detection and reporting of government-identified priority diseases using the Electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance Response (eIDSR) framework.

eHA developed a mobile electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (eIDSR) application in response to requirements stipulated by the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS).  This eIDSR app enables the MoHS Surveillance system to accurately record and share health facility-level information from the district to the national level. From health workers in hard-to-reach rural areas up to health officials in the major urban centers, eIDSR connects the health system to generate a clear and accurate picture of the health landscape.

In the first quarter of 2018, eHA introduced two new features to the eIDSR app; data approval and sms compression. These new features align with  Joint External Evaluation (JEE) as stipulated by the International Health Regulations (2005).) Since June 2007, countries—including Sierra Leone, have been making efforts to strengthen their core capacities.

Prior to  the introduction of the electronic data processing system, Sierra Leone’s Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) system relied on a paper based process  where the disease surveillance data summary was compiled in a spreadsheet and then mailed to appropriate authority every Monday. This manual system helped to monitor diseases in Sierra Leone. However the time constraints reduced efficiency. The paper-based method was also prone to human error, resulting in questionable credibility and completeness of information.

Before the introduction of eIDSR, most National health information from the Primary Health Care Unit were written hard copy. It took a lot of time for data staff to capture written hard copy data into the soft health management system. Data processing with the paper based system was time consuming and error prone. Transitioning to eIDSR would improve the quality and timeliness of health information.
— Dr. Tom Sesay, District Medical Officer (DMO), Port Loko - Northern Sierra Leone

One new feature  implemented in the eIDSR app is data approval. In the past, health care workers who were responsible for submitting necessary reports and data would enter the data  and there was no opportunity for superiors perform data quality assurance. This sometimes resulted in erroneous data being sent to the national level, reducing the quality of data used for disease surveillance in Sierra Leone.

The new data approval feature now prompts the district staff to review and validate all data received from the health facilities before it is seen by other users. eHA also provides daily monitoring of the approval process and quickly resolves any challenges that may arise.

With this new feature in place and the support provided,  the quality of data used for disease surveillance is improved significantly and human errors are minimized.

Training health care workers on the new features in the eIDSR app in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Training health care workers on the new features in the eIDSR app in Freetown, Sierra Leone

One of the biggest challenges experienced during the roll out of eIDSR was internet connectivity. There are many  facilities that do not have internet access to upload their data on site. The initial solution to that challenge was to provide an alternative for the facilities to upload their data into the national server; that alternative was using Short Message Service (sms)  to submit their data.

In the first version of the eIDSR application, seven (7) SMSs were required to upload the eIDSR weekly reporting form by SMS. With this sms compression upgrade the number is now reduced to one.  The introduction of SMS compression has resulted in facility staff saving time needed to find locations in the community where they can have internet access or strong network connection for 7 SMS submissions. It also cuts down on costs as less SMSs are needed to complete the upload into the national server. Through the sms compression, health facility staff are not  likely to leave their facilities to upload their data. The few that might have to leave will not likely have to walk long distances to have their data uploaded.

eIDSR has built the capacities of our health workers most of whom had little experience in the use of smartphones. eIDSR has contributed to improving our interaction with our facility staff.
— Albert Kamara, District Surveillance Officer, Port Loko

eHA has now trained 142 health care workers at the Western Area Urban  District Health Management Team (DHMT) in Freetown, Sierra Leone. This training of trainers session was aimed at cascading the new upgrade to other health workers. These two new features in the eIDSR application are adding immediate value to Sierra Leone’s health systems, by simply automating work.These are best practices for future generations to uphold and retain.

Getting Vaccinations on Time

By Hawa Kombian

One of the primary challenges facing routine immunization (RI) in northern Nigeria is a poor vaccine supply chain system which causes consistently high stock out levels. High stock out levels occur when vaccines are not delivered on time and are exacerbated by limited cold chain equipment (CCE) to keep the vaccinations viable. High stock out levels cause low RI coverage because there are fewer vaccines available when needed.

eHealth Africa (eHA) was engaged as a third-party logistics (3PL) supplier to provide a solution for this problem and the Vaccine Direct Delivery (VDD) program was the clear answer to streamline vaccine and dry goods delivery supply chain to CCE equipped health facilities. VDD works by:

One of the terrain challenges encountered by eHA's officers

One of the terrain challenges encountered by eHA's officers

  • Leveraging eHA’s geographic and information systems (GIS) capabilities to optimize delivery routes (including rugged terrain as pictured), reduce cost and maximize efficiency.

  • Collecting, analyzing and reporting data to provide custom delivery workflow support through a near real-time electronic data collection application - Logistics Management Information Systems (LoMIS) for stock level summaries via an integrated reporting dashboard.

VDD is a proven and effective model which enhances the efficiency and quality of Nigeria’s vaccine supply chain network. In collaboration with partners, VDD is implemented by eHA across some of Nigeria’s northern states specifically, Kano, Bauchi, and Sokoto. The program has had a proven and large-scale effect across northern Nigeria. The project has succeeded in improving both access and availability of healthcare for underserved populations, by enhancing the local vaccine supply chain network. It ensures that key and priority antigens are available, as evidenced by the low stock out rates, and are a major contributor to improved RI, especially for children's health. 

 

World Immunization Week: VaxTrac - helping health workers provide vaccines in Sierra Leone

By Musa Bernard Komeh

Through routine immunization programs, health workers bring life-saving vaccines to people around the world. At eHealth Africa, we work  with our partners to increase vaccination rates in the countries we work in. In Sierra Leone, one of the ways we do this is via VaxTrac.

VaxTrac at work in the Macauley Street Government Hospital, Freetown

VaxTrac at work in the Macauley Street Government Hospital, Freetown

VaxTrac, is a clinic-based vaccination registry system which health workers can use in the field to enroll children and track their immunization records. It eliminates the need for paper-based cohort books, tally sheets, and monthly reporting forms and improves health workers accuracy and efficiency.

VaxTrac registrations.png

With the introduction of VaxTrac technology into the routine immunizations activity of  Sierra Leone’s Western Area Urban, significant contribution has been made with a view to improving on quality, timely, and useful  immunization data. eHA VaxTrac currently covers 50 health facilities including the biggest and only children’s referral hospital in Sierra Leone.

One of the key features of  VaxTrac is that health workers can easily access information on defaulters which can be used for defaulter tracing activity during their outreach programs within  the communities they serve. Priority areas within the Western Urban Area have been identified which will further strengthen processes and contribute to the success of the project. This was based on lessons learned and data collected from 2016-2017.

eHA further commits to:

  • Working closely with the District Health Management Team of Western Area Urban to ensure regular and more structured outreach programs that will target defaulters

  • Sharing of facility performance to in-charges so they know where improvement should be made to achieve higher coverage

  • Training of more health workers on the use of VaxTrac

  • Modifying of the VaxTrac software to increase user friendliness and usefulness.

In 2017, a total of  39,101 children were registered on VaxTrac. We have plans for more efficient and impactful work in 2018.
— Musa Bernard Komeh, Project Supervisor, VaxTrac

At eHA, we know #VaccinesWork and we look forward to successful outcomes with increased immunization coverage and a reduction in defaulter numbers.