Mobile phone-based mHealth approaches for public health surveillance in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Nov 12;11(11):11559-82. doi: 10.3390/ijerph111111559.


Whereas mobile phone-based surveillance has the potential to provide real-time validated data for disease clustering and prompt respond and investigation, little evidence is available on current practice in sub-Sahara Africa. The objective of this review was to examine mobile phone-based mHealth interventions for Public Health surveillance in the region. We conducted electronic search in MEDLINE, EMBASE, IEE Xplore, African Index Medicus (AIM), BioMed Central, PubMed Central (PMC), the Public Library of Science (PLoS) and IRIS for publications used in the review. In all, a total of nine studies were included which focused on infectious disease surveillance of malaria (n = 3), tuberculosis (n = 1) and influenza-like illnesses (n = 1) as well as on non-infectious disease surveillance of child malnutrition (n = 2), maternal health (n = 1) and routine surveillance of various diseases and symptoms (n = 1). Our review revealed that mobile phone-based surveillance projects in the sub-Saharan African countries are on small scale, fragmented and not well documented. We conclude by advocating for a strong drive for more research in the applied field as well as a better reporting of lessons learned in order to create an epistemic community to help build a more evidence-based field of practice in mHealth surveillance in the region.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Cell Phone* / statistics & numerical data
  • Developing Countries*
  • Humans
  • Public Health Surveillance / methods*
  • Telemedicine / methods*