21st Century data collection takes health promotion to vulnerable communities in the Philippines

تم النشر: 3 يوليه 2014 9:28 CET

By Kate Marshall, IFRC

Paperless surveys are a step closer for health teams in the Haiyan recovery operation thanks to mobile data collection methods being implemented by the Philippine Red Cross for its community health activities.

The society, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is rolling out and adapting several IFRC health modules to the Haiyan operation.

A foundation approach will be community-based health and first aid (CBHFA). Last week Red Cross staff and volunteer trainee facilitators from many of the affected areas came together in Cebu City for the CBHFA in Action facilitators’ workshop. Part of the workshop was practicing mobile data collection methods. The Philippine Red Cross is using the Open Data Kit Collect app and an open source software solution called formhub to record and store survey data. Programme coordinators can easily create digital surveys for use by Red Cross volunteers. The use of smartphones to efficiently gather data makes it easier to analyse conditions and plan and monitor programs.

As part of the workshop, the trainees downloaded a survey form to their devices and visited Barangay Kampathaw. The crowded village’s 1,922 households reflect a wide income spectrum from the wealthy to the very poor. Trainees asked residents a series of questions about their general health as well as about health issues affecting the community. Coughs, colds, fever and dengue were nominated as major concerns.

The survey results suggested knowledge gaps about simple precautions individuals can take to stop the transmission of dengue, which is incurable and spread by mosquitoes. Most Kamputhaw residents were not well educated about methods of dengue prevention other than cleaning up potential breeding sites and covering water containers. Only a handful of residents mentioned mosquito nets, long sleeves and insect screens. Such information can be used to guide and adapt CBHFA activities for a specific community.

Dengue is a major public health issue in Southeast Asia and the Philippines, but despite government health campaigns, the number of cases in the Philippines has been growing every year. It reached 166,000 in 2013.

Not surprisingly, given the amount of rubbish and debris clogging the local stream and narrow alleyways between buildings, the spread of dengue is a worry for residents.

Kamputhaw householder Susan Dona said she was frustrated by the amount of refuse that was lying around and blamed apathy and a lack of barangay leadership when it came to tackling the issue. Even though local authorities collect household garbage, they are not responsible for clean ups.

Like other health-conscious residents surveyed in Kampathaw, Ms Dona hoped that the Red Cross would help galvanise residents into taking action.  

Another resident, café owner Evangeline Ohan, has young children and said she receives a lot of health information through their school.

“My top worry is the amount of garbage that’s around,” she said. “We know the rainy season is starting and there will be more dengue and more health conditions like fevers, coughs and colds.”

Dr Bhanu Pratap, IFRC Health Coordinator in the Philippines said that the CBHFA approach to working with community volunteers will support a change in residents’ behaviour and practices when it comes to preventable health issues. “CBHFA is an approach that Philippine Red Cross facilitators will use to gain entry and mobilize the community to help people adopt healthier behaviours and practices through setting up their own health committees, which will recruit five or six volunteers within each community,’ he said.

“These committees will be the community’s link to the Philippine Red Cross and government officials and departments.”