Big data's role in Africa's fight against malaria

Big data's role in Africa's fight against malaria

Newly launched data visualisation tool to be deployed in Zambia, Senegal and Ethiopia.

Non-profit global healthcare organisation PATH has launched a data tool called 'Visualise No Malaria' to help combat the disease in Africa.

The data visualisation tool, built on top of free open-source health management data platform District Health Information System (DHIS2), helps health workers gather information pertaining to the spread of the disease in specific regions.

DHIS2 was developed by World Health Organisation (WHO) and is already being used to collect data in 50 countries worldwide. The new visualization tool features integrated Tableau to create dashboards.

According to a statement issued by PATH, "The system contains medical records, the results of medical examinations, tests, treatments and patient details from all over the world. These are mostly data recorded by local doctors and health workers on a daily basis."

The use of data has been used extensively to combat diseases in Africa. "A great example is Zambia, where innovative use of data has contributed to an eighty-five percent decrease in malaria cases in the country's Southern Province between 2014 and 2017."

The new tool will be deployed in Zambia, Senegal and Ethiopia before moving to other African nations, the organisation said.

"The key to eliminating malaria lies not just in the tools, but how they're employed. This integration of applications simplifies the demanding jobs of health workers whose work is challenging but critical to making progress against disease," said Jonathan Drummey, a data visualisation specialist at PATH.

Jeff Bernson, chief data officer at PATH added, "Access to quality and timely information is not only critical for reducing the disease burden but also for increasing health equity. Through this application integration, health workers will receive data faster and easier, enabling them to better track malaria cases, understand trends and ultimately drive toward eliminating this deadly disease."