ITI Collaborates With Task Force Colleagues to Train Health Care Workers in Burkina Faso
Rebecca Mann is an Information Analyst for the International Trachoma Initiative and LF Support Center in the Task Force for Global Health.
BURKINA FASO -- “All we want is our health,” a Burkina mother told us as she consented to test her children for lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic disease caused by roundworms and transmitted by mosquitoes. Commonly known as elephantiasis, LF leads to the abnormal enlargement of body parts, causing pain and severe disability. The little girl stood brave as a health care worker pricked her finger to draw the blood for the LF test.
That little girl is one of more than 1.3 billion people around the world threatened by LF, but hopefully finds herself apart from the ranks of the more than 120 million infected people. Infection usually occurs in children, but the painful and profound disfigurement occurs later in life. Click here for more information on LF.
I work for the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), as well as the LF Support Center at the Task Force for Global Health in Decatur, GA, which is working to eliminate LF as a public health threat. The LF Support Center sent me and two other Task Force colleagues to the Hauts-Bassins region of Burkina Faso to train health care workers on how to do the testing, and then report their findings using mobile phones. My ITI colleague, Anyess Travers, provided French translation on the ground, and Kisito Ogoussan of the Mectizan® Donation Program (another program of the Task Force for Global Health) provided technical knowledge. MDP oversees Merck & Co., Inc.'s donation of Mectizan for the control of onchocerciasis (river blindness) worldwide, and the co-administration of Mectizan and albendazole, donated by GlaxoSmithKline, in African countries and Yemen where LF and onchocerciasis are co-endemic.
The LF Support Center is spearheading a project that will inform guidelines for stopping mass drug administration (MDA) for lymphatic filariasis. Large amounts of data need to be collected and blood samples need to be processed in order to establish evidence that it’s safe to stop MDA in areas where there have been high coverage MDAs for multiple years.
A mobile phone data collection system using OpenDataKit (ODK) and Task Force Mobile web reports has been developed for assimilating this data.The system allows users to quickly and accurately log survey information and link it to the results of the corresponding diagnostic tests. So far this new data collection system has been implemented in seven countries.
The health care workers in Burkina Faso picked up the system very quickly. This tool is very easy to use and the reports provide quick feedback. After only one day of classroom training the team was ready to head to the field to collect data.
The protocol for this study required the health care workers to go house to house to find children between the age of 6 and 7 to be tested. This is an important technique in areas where school enrollment is low.
On the second day of field work the team was greeted by swarms of children. Those who had been tested the day before proudly showed off the little prick marks on their fingers. For the team it was heartwarming to know that all these children are not infected with LF and they probably will never have to worry about getting infected.
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