The literarcy rate in Tamil Nadu is above that of the national average. Health workers assisting in the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program (RTBP) in Tamil Nadu, all of whom are female, 68% have 10 years of education and the rest only 12 years of education. They have more than 10 years experience working in the field providing primary health care and reporting on relevant health statistics to the government.
These health workers (few of them are in the photo with their backs to you) were given training and mobilized with the mHealthSurvey, mobile phone application, for submitting patient disease/syndrome data for the surveillance of epidemiological events. Data that used to take over 15 days to relay up to the paper chain, but was not subject to any detection analysis (i.e. just reporting), now takes several seconds. Moreover, the RTBP collects all communicable and non-communicable diseases along witht their syndrome opposed to a handful of diseases (i.e. Integrated Disease Surveillance Program S and P list of diseases). Each Primary Health Center sends over 100 patient records (probable, suspected, and confirmed cases) a day that is now subject to, RTBP introduced, real-time health event detection analysis. Although there were some errors due to misspelling at the begining, once they were asked to be cautious and were made aware of the consequences of the errors resulting in false statistics that may lead to false alarms of disease outbreaks, they have reduced the error rates to almost zero.
Dr. Ganesan M., (Senior Program Officer, RTBI – extreme left seated at head table, facing you, talking the Health Workers in the photo), present the paper titled: “Real-Time Bio-surveillance Program: Field Experience from Tamil Nadu, India” at the 7th Indian Association for Social Sciences and Health (IASSH) conference on Health, Poverty and Human Development held at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi from 5th to 7th March 2010. Dr. Ganesan is part of the research team at the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras’s Rural Technology and Business Incubator (RTBI) conducting the RTBP action research in the state of Tamil Nadu, India.