Integrated disease surveillance and response systems in resource-limited settings

Mtema, Zacharia John (2013) Integrated disease surveillance and response systems in resource-limited settings. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2013MtemaPhD.pdf] PDF
Download (3MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


Infectious diseases are a major public health burden causing millions of deaths every year. Government authorities need to be able to monitor disease incidence and evaluate their interventions for disease control. Monitoring the status of infectious diseases is one of the most challenging problems facing the public health sector, and epidemiological surveillance systems for infectious diseases, particularly notifiable diseases are essential. Despite initiatives to encourage reporting of infectious diseases, underreporting and poor surveillance are on-going challenges for many developing countries. Most surveillance systems in these settings use traditional paper-based methods, which are both inefficient and impractical. There is a need for alternative tools to strengthen infectious disease surveillance systems in resource-limited settings.

The remarkable progress made in mobile computing technology has the potential to improve infectious disease surveillance systems. However, user experience in digital technologies and infrastructure needs to be given greater attention. My study investigated the use of mobile phone devices as surveillance tools in health information systems. A mobile phone-based surveillance system was developed and applied in Tanzania as an alternative approach to traditional paper-based systems. Using this system different factors that affect the usability of mobile phone-based systems were investigated, by examining the quality of surveillance data in the context of completeness, timeliness and costs. After two years of operation in twenty-eight districts in southern Tanzania, numerous factors were identified that affect user accuracy and speed of use of the mobile phone-based surveillance. These include user experience in digital technology, particularly mobile device ownership; digital technology literacy, such as access and use of SMS and user’s age. The mobile phone-based surveillance system was more accurate compared to the traditional paper-based system with greater data reporting, more complete data and timelier reporting. Initially the mobile phone-based surveillance system required more capital investment, although the running costs of paper-based surveillance were greater.

The utility of the mobile phone-based surveillance in monitoring and evaluating large-scale rabies control interventions was examined and the data produced was used to analyse the impacts of interventions on reducing disease incidence. Significant relationships were detected between the incidence of reported bite injuries in the focal district the previous month and in neighbouring districts that month, with more injuries detected in mainland Tanzania than on the island of Pemba. The relationship between bite injuries and vaccination coverage was complicated, with some evidence that vaccination reduced bite incidence. However, more data and a better model are needed to fully understand the impact of vaccination on bite incidence. The system provided timely information on the implementation of control measures and incidence of bite injuries, vital for improving control efforts.

Use of automated short text messages (SMS) as part of the mobile phone-based surveillance was assessed to determine whether they could improve patient’s adherence to treatment regimens. Patients who received SMS reminders had significantly better compliance than those who did not, with attendance improved by at least 10%. Use of SMS reminders has the potential to improve patients’ compliance in other treatment regimens that require repeat clinic visits or administration of medicines.

This thesis documented how the use of mobile phone devices can be used to improve surveillance in resource-limited settings. The use of effective integrated surveillance system could empower major stakeholders concerned with public health problems by providing them with appropriate real-time information on disease incidence and control interventions. In the final chapter the challenges encountered and insights gained in the application of mobile computing in strengthening infectious diseases surveillance are discussed. Despite infrastructural challenges such as unreliable power and Internet, mobile computing technologies can improve patient care and authorities can be prompted in a timely manner about infectious disease outbreaks and of supply shortages. In conclusion, innovative tools that can strengthen and integrate human and animal surveillance can improve the control and prevention of infectious diseases. Mobile phones have great potential for this, and can be used to strengthen health information systems.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Disease Surveillance, Health information systems, Mobile computing technology, mHealth, HCI, ICT4D, Digital surveillance, Rabies, Surveillance, Zoonoses
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
Q Science > QA Mathematics
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
Supervisor's Name: Hampson, Dr. Katie and Murray-Smith, Professor Rodrick
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Mr Zacharia John Mtema
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-5224
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2014 14:30
Last Modified: 30 Jun 2014 15:34

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year