World Malaria Day 2015: play a game and save a life

  18764_lores         Image credit: CDC/ James Gathany

IN 2013, my colleague and I attended an ISNTD meeting (The International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases) in London where we heard about an innovative approach to expand rapid diagnosis of malaria by crowdsourcing volunteer help. Volunteers played an online game, and we wrote about it in Helping the Crowd Fight Malaria.

Two years later this game, has hunted down over 722,000 parasites. 

The MalariaSpot online game takes just one minute and works by getting you to analyse real blood samples. Tap the parasites but don't let the leucocytes mislead you!

Why you should play? 
A single diagnosis can take up to 30 minutes of a specialist's time, as they manually look for parasites in the blood with a microscope – up to 100 images have to be visually checked by a specialist. There aren’t enough in the world to deal with the 200 million people infected each year.

Crowdsourcing malaria parasite quantification could be a scalable, fast, ubiquitous and accurate screening system, essential for malaria eradication.

Take part for World Malaria Day 25th April

ISNTD are calling for more gamers to take part this weekend (it is after all world malaria day on Saturday 25th April). 

Just follow this link, enjoy yourself, [free apps for android and iphone/ipad] and help others:

MalariaSpot online game

To find out more about the founder and the game you can view a video of his 2013 presentation here: Dr. Miguel Luengo-Oroz 

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More from AHILA14: Information literacy, ICT and the problems in rural areas

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AHILA14 delegates. Courtesy of Jean Shaw, Phi.

Report from Jean Shaw of Partnerships in Health Information, attending the 14th biennial AHILA congress.  Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. AHILA14 Days 2-4.

The papers at the past three days at the AHILA Congress have covered a wide spectrum of subjects reflecting the Congress themes: ICTs and access to information and knowledge. Information seeking behaviours, access to and resources for health information have been extensively reported in papers covering disparate groups ranging from academic researchers and students to mothers and students, teenage pregnant girls and older people (60 onwards).

Health information in rural areas..the role of community health workers

The problems of providing health information in rural areas, where some religious and cultural values can be a barrier to western medicine were the subject of a number of studies and lengthy discussion. They were enhanced by a session organised by Dr. Neil Pakenham-Walsh of HIFA, who had invited community health workers and their Project Manager, Dr. Edoardo Occa, to describe the work of CUAMMDoctors with Africa (an Italian organization involved in the training of Community Health Workers at the grassroots level in seven African countries). 

 

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Dr.Occa with Tanzania community health workers & trainers, CUAMM. The NGO works in Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda.

 

IT was an eye-opener to learn of the tremendous workload and the problems they met.

Neither of the two health workers who spoke had ever been to Dar es Salaam and their presentations were given in almost instant translation by Mr. G. Faresi a community health worker trainer with the project. To round it off we were shown all the books and equipment that has to be carried by visiting health workers as they cycle great distances. It is obviously very heavy.

This was followed up by an excellent and complementary description of training Community Health Extension Workers in Kenya – an initiative carefully planned and carried out by the Kenya Chapter of AHILA (Ken-AHILA).

This blog also appears on Global Health Knowledge Base

 Editors comment

  •  the 3rd day of AHILA 14 was devoted to the  2nd HIFA conference.
    The session on community health workers & CUAMM, formed part of the HIFA conference.
  • CABI's Global Health database has 1030 records on community health workers (FREETEXT search).  Even more records can be achieved using this searchstring:  "community health" and "medical auxillaries".

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Invisible helpers: working equine animals provide vital support to women in developing countries

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A report launched this month by the animal welfare organisation the Brooke highlights the extent to which women in developing countries rely on donkeys and other working equids. The report, Invisible Helpers, calls for greater recognition of the role of working equine animals in supporting women and their families, and emphasizes the importance of looking after the health and welfare of these valuable animals.

 In 2013, The Brooke initiated the Voices from Women research project to explore the role of working horses, mules and donkeys in supporting the lives of women from the perspectives of the women themselves. The Invisible Helpers report is based on discussions with focus groups and individuals in Ethiopia, Kenya, India and Pakistan.

It found that working equine animals help to lessen the burden on women’s lives, providing a ‘support system’. Over three quarters of the groups (77%), including all of those in Kenya and India, ranked donkeys, horses and mules as the most important of all their livestock. They generate income, help with household chores, give women an increased social status and help women collect food and water for other livestock.

If these animals are sick or die, the impact can be devastating on women and their families. As one of the study participants said, “It is a pain to live a single day without a donkey. That is because donkeys are the base for our life. So if we lose our donkey, we will buy another one by selling one of our calves, goats, sheep or even a heifer.” (Urgo Yassin, Gedeba, Ethiopia).

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Dengue situation in a Southern Indian state (Andhra Pradesh) – Gaps and opportunities in Community Awareness

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Photo: WHO/J.Gusmao. Used tyes are an ideal habitat and breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying dengue

Our guestblogger is Dr Manoj Aravind, a researcher in Community Medicine, Hyderabad, India and member of the health information forum HIFA2015.  Under World Health Day 2014's theme "Small bite, big threat" with its goal of better protection against vector-borne diseases, he describes the case for community action against dengue in his home state of Andras Pradesh. He can be contacted directly by email: aravindbm@gmail.com

Dengue is the fastest growing vector-borne disease (VBD) worldwide, and Andhra Pradesh (a Southern Indian state) is no exception. Here, the cases of dengue reported have been steadily rising from 313 in 2008 to 2299 in 2012. The issue of missed cases due to the partial reporting of dengue positive cases by private hospitals and clinics, which are the most commonly used heathcare facilities in our state, make us sceptical of the true burden of this potentially deadly disease. Having a tropical climate, with increasing urbanization, mostly unplanned, and not much “people participation” in health issues increases our cause for concern.1

Mosquitoes are the most common insects today that city dwellers encounter and one species, Aedes aegypti,  are the vector for dengue, transmitting the disease to people via their bite: they are day-biting and breed in clean water collected inside and around houses, especially in urban areas.2 As dengue does not have vaccine or cure, the emphasis is on prevention. The World Health Organization is using this year's World Health Day to build awareness about VBDs and reinforce the need for community empowerment in terms of protecting against these small creatures which are a huge threat to the health of the entire community.3 Andhra Pradesh’s state health machinery is using this opportunity to reach out & empower different stakeholders with effective communication and information.

Awareness of people regarding dengue

When there is no biological vaccine for a disease, knowledge of how this disease spreads and how to prevent this becomes very important. It may then be apt to say that health education leading to healthy behaviours acts as a social vaccine.

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The 2014 World Health Day focuses on Vector-Borne diseases

WHO_SHollyman_woman&net Tanzania
Image : WHO/S.Hollyman

From guest blogger: Dr Joseph Ana, Editor-in-Chief, BMJ West Africa and member of the steering group of the health information forum HIFA2015 . He can be contacted directly by email: jneana@yahoo.co.uk

It
is right that the World Health Organisation (WHO) should focus on vector borne diseases this year, and by so doing raise awareness, disseminate information and improve, hopefully prompt, more effort at preventing and managing the myriad diseases that vectors inflict on man, especially in the Tropics and Sub-tropics.

Whether it is from the arthropod invertebrates of mosquitoes (malaria, dengue, yellow fever), sandflies (skin and systemic Leishmaniasis), bugs (Louse-borne typhus), and ticks (Lyme disease); or from crabs/crayfish (paragonimiasis) and snails (schistosomiasis), or from vertebrate vectors like bats (rabies, ebola disease), vectors are responsible for a large chunk of the disease burden thathealth systems across the globe have to deal with, particularly in the poorer tropical and sub-tropical parts. There is a popular saying that the Traditional African way of cooking all meals ‘well done’ and avoiding eating raw sea food (crabs and crayfish) has helped to keep to a minimum diseases from these vectors.  Snail is also a very popular delicacy which is served ‘well cooked’ for the same reason.

The World has experienced increased incidence of arthropod borne disease since the 1970s 1,2,4, especially in the regions with the weakest health systems such as the tropics and subtropics. But for several reasons the temperate parts of the globe are also affected, which is why it is apt and timely that the WHO is focusing world attention on vector-borne diseases this year (2014). The reasons that account for the global nature of the menace of vector-borne diseases include increased travel by all modes; poor public health practice and infrastructure; massive population increases with urbanization and slums; poor surveillance and control measures; changing agricultural practices and deforestation; lack of effective drug and insecticide control leading to resistant vectors and pathogens; inadequate political will;  etc.

The World should recognize, support and assist those countries where good public health practice has shown that control (and elimination) of vectors leads to decrease in vector borne diseases and help to extend such best practices to regions that are lagging behind. A good example of such best practice in the tropics is Cross River State of Nigeria which has a deliberate Public Health Policy of making its major urban areas ‘Clean and Green’ beginning from Calabar, the state capital.

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How mobile phones could make a difference to maternal health

Theni Jakhammal using her mobile phone_6459818213_o
Mobile technology is revolutionising health and health care in developing countries enabling health promotion campaigns, reminders about therapy and data collecting. To women it could provide a lifeline for them during pregnancy and birth. But what evidence is there that mobile messages are accessible to women in these situations and that they could change women’s behaviour? In this blog for International Women’s day I describe two mobile services and look for some evidence about the impact of mobiles on women’s health.

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Mental Health – What can we learn from low and middle income countries?

Children running
“Turning the World Upside Down – Mental Health Challenge” is an open competition to celebrate projects and ideas from low and middle income countries (LIC) which could effectively be applied to major health challenges faced by high income countries.  Four case studies were pitched in a Dragon’s Den style challenge on Wednesday 27th November at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  The event was also broadcast live as a webinar. The goal was to collect, promote and celebrate the approaches towards mental health (MH) from low and middle income countries.

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