Community Health Workers and Disease Surveillance in Tanzania: Promoting the Use of Mobile Technologies in Detecting and Reporting Health Events

Authors:  Calvin Sindato, Leonard E. G. MboeraEric BedaMpoki Mwabukusi, and Esron D. Karimuribo


This cross-sectional study was conducted in the Kilosa, Morogoro Urban, Ngorongoro, and Ulanga districts of Tanzania to investigate the practices of community health workers (CHWs) related to disease surveillance functions and to establish their needs and technology capacities. We also established the strength of mobile phone networks and internet connections in the study areas to inform the feasibility of using mobile-based applications in community-based disease surveillance. A total of 135 CHWs from 85 villages participated in the study. Health events captured at the community level were entirely paper-based. CHWs submitted reports to higher-level health authorities mainly on foot (100%), but they also used public transport (65%) and telephone calls (56%). The median number of days between the onset of a suspected disease outbreak at the community level and reporting to a primary healthcare facility was 10 days (interquartile range [IQR] 2-30). The median number of days between submitting a report and receiving a response was 7 days (IQR 2-30). Of the 53 CHWs who reported the most recent health events to a higher-level health authority, 39 (74%) never received feedback. All 85 villages had a reliable mobile phone network and 74 (87%) had a mobile phone internet connection that was strong enough to support data transmission using digital technology. Almost all (n = 132, 98%) of the CHWs owned mobile phones. The practices related to detection and reporting of health events could be improved to enhance early warning disease surveillance. Reliable mobile networks and internet connections and the ownership of mobile phones among CHWs in the study areas present opportunities to strengthen community event-based surveillance using mobile-based solutions.


DOI: 10.1089/hs.2019.0096


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someone