Technology and standardisation – of scientific processes, trainings, data cleaning – enables the public health sector to work at unprecedented scale to conduct cost-effective disease surveys.
That cost-effectiveness is key. Baseline mapping with GTMP methods has an estimated total price tag of £16.6 million ($24 million). In other words, the global prevalence of one of the earth’s oldest and most appalling preventable diseases has been mapped for the cost of 75 high-end Ferraris.
Of course it’s not technology and standards alone that account for success of the model. Smart partnerships play an essential role – the scale and reach of the GTMP came through a collective will to succeed which was shared among more than 60 partners including regional health bureaus and ministries of health, funders, academic bodies and international non-governmental organisations.
GTMP epidemiologists and partners helped strengthen public health systems by training eye health workers in trachoma survey methodology, analysis and data management, where applicable, they also supported the publication of trachoma and WASH survey findings in peer-reviewed journals. Mobile phones used by the GTMP have been made available to ministries of health for future disease management programmes. It is estimated a total of approximately 2,500 people worked on GTMP worldwide.
Up next for the collaboration behind the GTMP is an initiative called Tropical Data. Building on the GTMP model, it covers all trachoma related data so that national programs can manage and accurately track their national disease elimination interventions. As the name suggests, Tropical Data will open up its service to other neglected tropical diseases in the coming years, potentially saving billions of dollars on interventions and making elimination of neglected tropical diseases a reality in our lifetime. If the public health community is clever, data collection models like the GTMP’s will be used for much more.
View the interactive feature which used android smartphones to map the world’s leading infectious cause of avoidable blindness.
Sarah Bartlett, a mobile and communications specialist focused on Sub-Saharan Africa, is currently the mHealth advisor for Sightsavers’ neglected tropical disease programmes