Article by Mvuyo Makhasi, Cheryl Cohen and Sibongile Walaza: “Participatory surveillance has not yet been implemented in African countries. There has only ever been one pilot study, in Tanzania. In 2016, a pilot study of a mobile app called AfyaData was implemented for participatory surveillance in Tanzania. The aim was to establish a platform where members of the community could report any symptoms they encountered. Based on the clinical data provided these would be grouped into categories of diseases. In the pilot study most of the reported cases were related to the digestive system. The second most frequently reported cases were related to the respiratory system. This demonstrated the potential of obtaining close to real-time data on diseases directly from the community….
Participatory surveillance is in place in 11 European countries that form part of the InfluenzaNet network. Here it’s been shown to address some of the limitations of traditional facility-based systems. For example, it can detect the start of the flu season up to two weeks earlier than traditional facility-based surveillance. This allows public health officials to plan and respond earlier to seasonal outbreaks.
Self-reporting systems provide similar and complementary data to facility-based surveillance. They show:
- variations over time in cases of acute respiratory tract infection
- time to peak of incidence of acute cases
- the peak intensity of acute cases
- a comparison between participatory and facility-based surveillance trends.
The same analysis can now be done for COVID-19 cases, which were previously not included in participatory surveillance platforms.
The systems enable analysis of health-seeking behaviour in people who don’t see a doctor or nurse. For example, people may use home-based remedies, search for guidelines on the internet or consult traditional healers. Health-seeking surveys are often conducted in research studies for a defined period of time, but data is not routinely collected. Participatory surveillance is a longitudinal and systematic way of collecting information about health-seeking behaviour related to respiratory diseases.
Vaccine effectiveness estimates can also be determined through participatory surveillance data. This includes vaccine coverage for seasonal influenza and COVID-19 and information on how these vaccines perform in preventing illness. These data can be compared with vaccine effectiveness estimates from facility-based surveillance…(More)”.