International charity, Lepra, is using mobile technology to take on neglected diseases like leprosy.
For 92 years they’ve been at the forefront in developing ways to eradicate the disease and were the first to roll out a cure for leprosy treatment. Now, taking a more modern approach, they’re pioneering the use of mobile technology in a bid to improve the detection and treatment of neglected diseases like leprosy overseas.
Last year, the bacterial disease was newly diagnosed in over 210,000 people and it is also estimated that there are as many as three million living undiagnosed with leprosy worldwide while another four million currently live with consequences.
Lepra has distributed handheld devices containing standardised questionnaires and dedicated software to its in-country staff. This enables them to collect vital information that has never before been gathered on such a scale. These new facts and figures are so useful they are impacting the projects the Colchester-based charity deliver in areas that are hard to reach.
Sarah Nancollas, Chief Executive of Lepra, said: “This new way of data collection sounds so simple but it is having a huge impact. We are able to refocus our work and meet the need more aggressively. Overall, access to this data is allowing us to learn, improve and change more lives.”
Through the phones, the charity was able to discover that there are high figures of misdiagnosis of leprosy in certain areas within the state of Odisha in India. In reaction to this, Lepra is providing more health education sessions for government health workers in those specific areas so they can detect cases earlier. Similarly, Lepra will be implementing a public health awareness campaign so that the general public will be more aware of the symptoms and availability of treatment.
“This information is allowing us to see where the need really is and identify what more we can be doing to help those affected by neglected diseases,” said Nancollas.
The charity can now also see where stigma surrounding disease is prevalent and how many days of work are lost due to leprosy. To combat this, Lepra provides skills training and helps advocate for disability grants.
After eight months of piloting the technology, Lepra plans to eventually roll out the technology across their 40 projects spanning India, Bangladesh and Mozambique. This will help the charity continue reaching over 2.5 million people each year through health education.