Friday, June 3, 2016

Leprosy is not a disease of old that’s no longer relevant; it’s become a “neglected disease,” like lymphatic filariasis and malaria. Healthcare nonprofit Lepra is doing something about this neglect via mobile technology. The organization performs services on the ground in Mozambique, India, and Bangladesh to aid those suffering from the aforementioned diseases.

Standard Questionnaire With Innovative Technology

Lepra monitors its work and the subsequent impact through a standardized questionnaire, in conjunction with innovative technology, so survey findings are available on mobile phones all over the world. People working on Lepra projects contribute to the mHealth movement by amassing essential information on a grand scale, something that hasn’t occurred before. Lepra has so far collected vital information on 1,540 patients, resulting in an “unprecedented picture” of their lives and the organization’s effects.

Survey access on mobile devices, combined with business analysis technology, has allowed Lepra to refocus its work where necessary and meet patient needs more quickly.

Leprosy Misdiagnosis

The Lepra survey asks patients the same questions whatever their locations and extracts key statistics, such as how many school days were missed due to leprosy, how seriously the disease injures income, and how many afflicted with leprosy are children. One recent finding involves high incidents of leprosy misdiagnosis in specific areas within India’s Odisha state. In response, Lepra is hoping to offer more healthcare education sessions for government health workers in these areas. The organization is also creating a statewide public health awareness campaign designed to raise awareness regarding leprosy symptoms and treatment availability.


Another Lepra survey finding involves the unfortunate discrimination of those suffering from leprosy and other neglected diseases. This discrimination sadly happens within victims’ own families and has reaffirmed the organization’s goal to reduce leprosy stigmas and continue with educational activities in affected communities. mHealth efforts have also shown Lepra how many days of work are missed due to the debilitating disease, with the average currently at eight days per month. The organization is advocating disability grants and providing skills training as a result.

Formal Data Collection Implementation

Lepra’s data collection method was implemented on a trial basis by staff members for various projects earlier this year, and will now enjoy a permanent role in the organization’s efforts across India, Mozambique, and Bangladesh. The group’s successful combination of innovative technology use and asking the right questions has made it possible for Lepra to collect data in a cost-effective manner. The organization hopes more funding for training and mobile phones will help Lepra reach even more patients and ultimately change more lives.

The Lepra example is one of the many ways mobile technology is changing the healthcare landscape. SMS messaging could eventually play a role in how the organization helps those afflicted with leprosy and other old-world diseases, as texting is an inexpensive measure that allows health workers to send patients information about care, available facilities and treatment, and much more.

Mobile tech’s use in the fight against leprosy is certainly a beautiful thing!