As part of ongoing research into the development of low-cost services to address the rising burden of cardiovascular disease on the continent, the Chronic Disease Initiative for Africa (CDIA) at the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Health Sciences developed a mobile phone application. Using Dimagi’s Commcare platform, the team developed a tool that enabled community health workers to calculate a cardiovascular disease risk score.
Determining a cardiovascular risk score and identifying individuals at risk is an important part of primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide. Shortages of skilled health workers and testing facilities make implementing such screening interventions challenging, especially in resource-scarce settings. With the aim of simplifying cardiovascular disease risk prediction, and as well as to make screening more affordable for developing countries, a non-laboratory, paper-based risk assessment model was developed and validated by colleagues at Harvard University. In addition, shifting this task to community health workers had also being investigated as a way to decentralize and further scale cardiovascular disease risk screening in communities.
We worked closely with Kieran Sharpey-Schafer, country director of Dimagi South Africa, and locally based field manager Andrea Fletcher, to integrate the paper-based non-laboratory risk assessment model onto the CommCare platform. The final product was a mobile application that community health workers were able to use to calculate risk scores in the field.
While data collection and monitoring is ongoing, early results have shown the application to reduce community health worker training times and risk assessment times on the field, as well as the margin of error in the calculation of cardiovascular risk scores.
Dimagi provided technical guidance, mobile phones, training, and outstanding support for this proof of concept research project that facilitated a smooth, glitch-free roll-out.