Mobile phone-based syndromic surveillance system, Papua New Guinea

Emerg Infect Dis. 2013 Nov;19(11):1811-8. doi: 10.3201/eid1911.121843.


The health care system in Papua New Guinea is fragile, and surveillance systems infrequently meet international standards. To strengthen outbreak identification, health authorities piloted a mobile phone-based syndromic surveillance system and used established frameworks to evaluate whether the system was meeting objectives. Stakeholder experience was investigated by using standardized questionnaires and focus groups. Nine sites reported data that included 7 outbreaks and 92 cases of acute watery diarrhea. The new system was more timely (2.4 vs. 84 days), complete (70% vs. 40%), and sensitive (95% vs. 26%) than existing systems. The system was simple, stable, useful, and acceptable; however, feedback and subnational involvement were weak. A simple syndromic surveillance system implemented in a fragile state enabled more timely, complete, and sensitive data reporting for disease risk assessment. Feedback and provincial involvement require improvement. Use of mobile phone technology might improve the timeliness and efficiency of public health surveillance.

Keywords: ICT; Papua New Guinea; early warning; evaluation; fragile state; information and communication technology; m-health; mobile phone; syndromic surveillance.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Disease Notification
  • Humans
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Public Health Surveillance / methods*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality Control
  • Reproducibility of Results