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USAID to spearhead use of mobile phones in the fight against TB in Kenya

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) office in Kenya plans to introduce new technologies in the country’s war against tuberculosis, said Erna Kerst, Mission Director.

Last year, the country, placed 15th among 22 most TB burdened countries in the world, reported 106, 083 new cases due to the disease.

 According to Maurice Maina of the USAID, the plan is to develop an online TB reporting system---that is able to tell where the patients are, what medication they are on…how many of those initiated on TB treatment end with resistance form of TB and provide supportive supervision to improve adherence to treatment.

Speaking on the sidelines of a press briefing in Nairobi ahead of the World TB Day set for Saturday 24th March, Maina said the plan is to improve governance and accountability in TB programmes besides helping programme implementers be able to know how much resources are used in any district and the impact these resources have. This, he said, will help them match inputs and outputs.

“The system is going to be real-time using online connectivity using mobile phone provider to ensure that patients and health workers at all levels have all the information they need on real-time basis. The provider is yet to be identified as the plan is still being mooted,” he said.

Maina said for ease of operations, the system will be housed at the Division of Tuberculosis and Leprosy in the ministry of Public Health and Sanitation who will be the main driver of the system.

“They will be the ones who will be using the system with the USAID is only developing the system and make it user-friendly, support follow up activities by the ministry of health staff,” he told Africa Science News Service.

According to Maina, the patients will be able to get information on where they can get subsequent diagnosis, treatment and mobile alerts on when to take their medications.

Further, he said patients who experience any side effects on any given medicine will be able to send questions and expect to get advise from experts on what next to do.person is diagnosed with TB they will automatically be put in the system to begin benefiting from the services offered.

The plans by the USAID is testimony of the growing demand for timely information and services by both the patient and the health care provider.

According to Prof Odongo William Okello of the School of Computing, University of Nairobi, there is growing interest and need for more sophisticated health information systems and the call for bringing health care to the patient when and where it is required.

This is creating a growing demand for timely information and services by both the patient and the health care provider.

Statistics show that one in three adults in Kenya carry a mobile phone and the rapid spread of mobile phones, mobile broadband and internet usage at the household level has increased the use of ICT in a number of development programmes including health.

Not to be left behind, the government has introduced use of computers in all health facilities with the hope that the use of the equipment will increase timeliness of reporting and improve patient care.

According to Beth Mugo, minister in charge of Public health and sanitation, the direction that the ministry is taking calls for healthcare workers to be computer literate.

Source: African Science

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