Contributors Adam Crawley (i), Nomita Divi (i) (see institutional affiliations)
San Francisco-based nonprofit Ending Pandemics works with partners in lower-income countries using innovative methods to prevent, detect, and contain disease outbreaks. Its collaborations take a “One Health” approach, which starts from the evidence that because three in four emerging infectious diseases arise in animals before spreading to humans, detecting disease in animals faster can prevent outbreaks in humans. This approach enables early detection of and rapid response to outbreaks in human populations.
Working with local organizations, Ending Pandemics supports the development of technology-enabled surveillance systems that rely on community input. These systems include mobile applications in Tanzania and Thailand and a digital hotline in Cambodia. In both cases, Ending Pandemics and its partners hosted in-country EpiHacks (epidemiology hack-a-thons) to engage local software developers in the challenge of building efficient, robust surveillance systems. These sessions also generated buy-in from local health professionals, communities, and the private sector- generating early buy-in from key stakeholders. As implementation partners continued fine-tuning the technology, they began recruiting community volunteers and raising citizen awareness to empower people to use the systems to the greatest effect.
Thailand’s Participatory One Health Disease Detection (PODD) project launched in 2015 and Cambodia’s 115 Hotline launched in 2016. Both systems have effectively reduced detection and response time and limited the spread of animal disease, clearly establishing that user-friendly technology alongside community mobilization can facilitate successful “bottom-up” disease surveillance.
The two systems have since been adapted to serve other public health purposes, including early warning of weather shocks and, more recently, COVID-19 surveillance. With continued support from Ending Pandemics and buy-in from other local governments, they are being extended and replicated in other countries. In Tanzania, a project built on the PODD experience and led by the SACIDS Foundation at Sokoine University of Agriculture is demonstrating promising early results.