The Health Systems Program in the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) was awarded an R21 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Fogarty International Center for a mobile health (m-Health) project in Uganda.

The award was granted recently to Assistant Scientist, Dr. Dustin Gibson, for the project Mobile Phone Surveys for NCD Risk Factors in Uganda (MoP-NCD). Dr. Gibson will be the co-Principal Investigator along with Dr. Adnan Hyder, Professor and Director of the Health Systems Program. Dr. George Pariyo, JHSPH, and Drs. Fred Wabwire and Elizeus Rutebemberwa from Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) are also co-Investigators on the study. The project is designed to be a collaboration between JHSPH, MakSPH and Iganga-Mayuge Health and Demographic Surveillance Site (IM-HDSS) in Uganda.

Deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are rising rapidly, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which bear a disproportionate burden. About 75% of all global deaths from NCDs are in LMICs and almost half of them are premature, occurring before age 70. Dr. Gibson said “In Uganda, NCDs are responsible for four of the leading 10 causes of death, yet data on NCD risk factors remains obscure." More research is needed on the burden that NCD risk factors pose, along with an innovative method for collecting and documenting data, in order to frame the problem and shape targeted health systems responses that can save millions of lives.

The MoP-NCD program will leverage the IM-HDSS to assess the quality and reliability of data collected by a mobile phone survey as compared to traditional methods of data collection (i.e. household surveys). Telephone and mobile phone surveys have been utilized to collect population level estimates of health and demographics in high income countries, but their application has not been extensively studied in lower income countries. As the population coverage of mobile phones increases, opportunities exist to leverage m-Health technologies to improve the efficiency, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness of data collection in LMICs by interviewing respondents over their own personal mobile phone. “Given the low cost of mobile phone surveys, and if they are successfully validated, they have the potential to rapidly generate much-needed data on NCD risk factors and help define health policy and program management decisions,” stated Dr. George Pariyo, Senior Scientist at JHSPH.

The Fogarty grant “enables JHSPH to conduct intensive field training of researchers at MakSPH who will serve as a resource for the country in future use of mobile phone surveys for NCD risk factor surveys,” emphasized Dr. Adnan Hyder.  

 The Health Systems Program is focused on achieving accessible, cost-effective health care and healthy outcomes across the lifespan for families, communities and nations. In the past decade, the Program has conducted projects in over 50 countries, with particular expertise in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where the greatest number of people continue to struggle with deep poverty and unmet health needs.

For more information, please contact Melissa Reed, Communications and Program Specialist, at melissar@jhu.edu