Ebola virus disease (EVD) shined a klieg light on vulnerabilities in surveillance and diagnostics in West Africa. Currently, public health experts in the region produce disease report notifications on paper, only some of which are sent to the Ministry of Health in a timely fashion for consolidation in monthly reports. The manual data entry done to consolidate notifications and produce the report leaves room for human error, which can compromise the accuracy and relevance of these monthly reports. This sub-optimal situation puts the countries at risk of under-notification and late response to epidemiological outbreaks, whether in the case of Ebola or beyond.
The Mérieux Foundation USA, Mérieux Foundation, PATH and the Senegalese Ministry of Health are leveraging support from the Skoll Global Threats Fund to utilize mobile phone technology and web platforms to transfer epidemiological data from the medical laboratories across Senegal, shortening the time between detection of and response to biothreats and pandemics.
The I-Lab project in West Africa provides automated tools for the collection of the laboratory data in order to address the significant hindrance to epidemiological surveillance in West Africa created by insufficient laboratory results reporting. It represents an innovative approach for timely data collection and surveillance in the context of Ebola and other pathogens with epidemic potential in West Africa.
I-Lab is currently being tested in 120 laboratories across Senegal. The Mérieux Foundation, PATH, and the Senegal Laboratory Directorate have piloted an automated mobile reporting system with significant success in terms of completeness, timeliness, and quality of the data reported. The project engages public and private laboratories in the country to report weekly on 12 different diseases (viral hemorrhagic fevers, malaria, schistosomiasis, meningitis, yellow fever, shigellosis, cholera, poliomyelitis, HIV, STIs , measles, and tuberculosis.)
I-Lab also uses the free, open source DHIS2 platform to align with health information systems widely used in West African countries and to limit the post-implementation operational costs. In the long-term, the objective is to equip the seven countries of the RESAOLAB West Africa lab network with the system, enabling collection and sharing across the region.
This project is funded by the Skoll Global Threats Fund.