Development of a data collection and management system in West Africa: challenges and sustainability

Infect Dis Poverty. 2018 Nov 16;7(1):125. doi: 10.1186/s40249-018-0494-4.


Background: Developing and sustaining a data collection and management system (DCMS) is difficult in malaria-endemic countries because of limitations in internet bandwidth, computer resources and numbers of trained personnel. The premise of this paper is that development of a DCMS in West Africa was a critically important outcome of the West African International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research. The purposes of this paper are to make that information available to other investigators and to encourage the linkage of DCMSs to international research and Ministry of Health data systems and repositories.

Methods: We designed and implemented a DCMS to link study sites in Mali, Senegal and The Gambia. This system was based on case report forms for epidemiologic, entomologic, clinical and laboratory aspects of plasmodial infection and malarial disease for a longitudinal cohort study and included on-site training for Principal Investigators and Data Managers. Based on this experience, we propose guidelines for the design and sustainability of DCMSs in environments with limited resources and personnel.

Results: From 2012 to 2017, we performed biannual thick smear surveys for plasmodial infection, mosquito collections for anopheline biting rates and sporozoite rates and year-round passive case detection for malarial disease in four longitudinal cohorts with 7708 individuals and 918 households in Senegal, The Gambia and Mali. Major challenges included the development of uniform definitions and reporting, assessment of data entry error rates, unstable and limited internet access and software and technology maintenance. Strengths included entomologic collections linked to longitudinal cohort studies, on-site data centres and a cloud-based data repository.

Conclusions: At a time when research on diseases of poverty in low and middle-income countries is a global priority, the resources available to ensure accurate data collection and the electronic availability of those data remain severely limited. Based on our experience, we suggest the development of a regional DCMS. This approach is more economical than separate data centres and has the potential to improve data quality by encouraging shared case definitions, data validation strategies and analytic approaches including the molecular analysis of treatment successes and failures.

Keywords: Data (database) management system; Data collection; Diseases of poverty; Malaria; Plasmodium falciparum.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Culicidae / parasitology
  • Data Collection
  • Gambia
  • Humans
  • Information Management / methods*
  • Information Management / standards*
  • Malaria / epidemiology*
  • Mali
  • Senegal
  • Surveys and Questionnaires