Monday, June 03, 2013

mHealth for fever ravaged Kerala

Kerala is a land of paradoxes. The most literate state in India with quality of life indicators similar to the west is ravaged by a fever epidemic from a variety of causes ranging from dengue and chikungunya to rat fever. Most of these are vector borne (predominantly mosquitoes) and similar pattern can be observed in Africa and Latin America. With the state machinery discussing methods to strengthen tertiary care, we fail to leverage our strengths of literacy to tackle the basic vector control measures. So what else can we do?

English: Aedes aegypti in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
English: Aedes aegypti in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Comedians in our TV shows make fun of our housewives interest to send SMS vote for their favourite reality show star. Every reality show ends with the participant soliciting SMS vote in a particular format that even our octogenarian viewers can repeat in their sleep. In spite of this near complete penetration of mobile phones and an educated population we fail to utilise the mHealth model of vector control, successfully employed for fever epidemic control in Africa and Latin America. What all can we do with mHealth?
mobile phone mast
mobile phone mast (Photo credit: osde8info)

mHealth is a term used for the practice of medicine and public health, supported by mobile devices. First and foremost we can use mobile phones to give basic health education on fever. So if you or your family member gets fever, you send an SMS to a particular number along with basic symptoms along with your location and you get information on what to do and when and where to consult a doctor. This basic triage will help in optimising our health services delivery already in the breakpoint due to poor infrastructure. This model is successfully employed in many parts of Africa for prenatal care.[1]

The statistics collected from these SMS messages can also be used to assess social (eco-bio-social) determinants of vector density and plan more effective vector control measures. It will also help in finding the epicentre of epidemic outbreaks. It can also be used for treatment support and medication compliance for patients. A similar system has been employed in Colombia for prevention and control of Dengue. [2]

Our waste management efforts are at the core of vector control and that is a topic for a different discussion. Suffice to say that encouraging our age old habit of taking a 'sanji' to the grocery with a total ban on plastic bags would be a good beginning.

References

1. SMS reminders to improve treatment adherence [Click here]

2. Ecosystems Approach for the Design and Implementation of a Sustainable Strategy for Dengue Prevention and Control in Colombia. [Click here]

3. Importing ONTODerm Ontology.