An innovative research program at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore is using digital communication technologies to boost efforts by authorities and citizens in the fight against dengue.
Known as Mo-Buzz, the system uses modern mobile technologies to improve the efficiency of dengue surveillance techniques through crowd-sourced data, warns of impending outbreaks and enhances knowledge about dengue and how to prevent it.
Mo-Buzz for public health inspectors
Equipped with tablets, health inspectors can send instantaneous updates on potential breeding sites and hot spots from out in the field. Associate Professor May O. Lwin, the principal investigator of the program adds: “It is a huge step for health authorities because their traditionally manual process typically took a number of days, but now they can collate that information in a day.”
At the back end, the dynamic monitoring system uses a computer simulation to forewarn health authorities about impending disease outbreaks. “This technology is very efficient at identifying potential hot spots and breeding sites that can be targeted for clean up,” notes Professor May.
The tablets also allow health inspectors to disseminate knowledge. Digitized health promotion materials are always close at hand and can easily be circulated in zones facing dengue problems.
Mo-Buzz for the public
The multiple functions of the Mo-Buzz public smartphone app:
– Alerts warn of potential hot spots and encourage people living near them to take preventative measures.
– Reporting tools allow the general public to aid health authorities by reporting mosquito bites, dengue symptoms, and breeding sites.
– Tailored detailed and graphical health communications aim to build knowledge and awareness.
“If members of the public see a breeding spot or they are experiencing a large number of bites, for example, they can provide a video or image with their smartphone and that information is tagged with geographic location,” adds Professor May. “And although smartphone users are increasing, a small minority still have normal phones, so we need a text based system in place too.”
The system’s health communications are also aimed at increasing civic engagement and participation. “We also use the system as a health education and communication platform to target various groups with health information and encourage them to upload information,” Professor May elaborates.
Rolling out across Sri Lanka
Pilots run in conjunction with Colombo Municipal Council’s Public Health Department and Sri Lanka mobile operator Mobitel across university settings and with public health inspectors using the iPads out in the field have provided some source data and insight into public response.
Field-testing through a larger six-month pilot to be rolled out across Sri Lanka later this summer will provide a better understanding of adoption and usage. “The municipal authorities and the Colombo mayor’s office and the Telcos are supporting this and we are working in conjunction with the University of Colombo,” adds Professor May.
The unceasing wave of new technologies in recent years is bringing many new opportunities in the fight against dengue. We have seen other tools, such as the winner of our India prize X-Dengue, contribute to the fight in innovative ways.
In an earlier blog post we asked if digital tools could help control dengue. We are hoping for positive outcomes from the research and pilots generated by projects such as Mo-Buzz.
What’s your favorite digital tool helping to combat dengue fever outbreaks?