The WHO Regional Office for Africa has developed new big data analytical tool – ESPEN Data Portal – in the NTD Data Portal to help Cure Neglected Tropical Diseases programs and stakeholders track roll-out and impacts of interventions and make data-driven decisions.

Dr. Maria Rebollo Polo, ESPEN Team Leader at WHO Regional Office for Africa, said, “It’s vital that countries do more to combat the variety of Neglected Tropical Diseases that are sadly still so prevalent across so much of Africa, causing millions of citizens severe disabilities and sometimes their lives. Access to updated and more accurate data is vital for countries to implement strategic plans that can truly help to save more lives and eliminate NTDs.”

Dr. Polo added, “We encourage Neglected Tropical Disease control programs across Africa to use this innovative tool so that their activities and investments result in real impact and can be coordinated in the most efficient way, making the most of often scarce resources.”

In healthcare, big data represents a huge opportunity for systems that would monitor patients, track tropical diseases, evaluate vaccination campaigns, and develop telemedicine. There has been a dramatic increase in the use of Big Data, AI, Machine Learning (ML), and Deep Learning in healthcare programs across developed and developing economies, but the African region appears to be lagging behind. The WHO is collaborating with leading big data analytics service providers so it can gather big data intelligence to solve immediate healthcare challenges in Africa. A result of these efforts is the ESPEN Data Portal.

A project abbreviated to ESPEN stands for the Expanded Special Project for the Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases. The ESPEN program was established in 2016, and since then, it has worked with the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO), member states, and NTD partners to mobilize political, technical, and financial resources. A disease-free Africa is possible with the help of the ESPEN Data Portal. With ESPEN, health officials, NTD partners, and NTD groups can easily gather, analyze, and report district-level data to help the NTD groups reach key targeted communities in Africa.

A new set of data dashboards has been developed as part of the ESPEN Data Portal so that Neglected Tropical Disease managers can track the roll-out and impact of interventions and make data-driven decisions about future strategies.

ESPEN Progress and Forecast dashboards provide users with access to key statistics and analytics, graphics, and maps at the sub-national and national levels. In addition to discussing current endemicity and progress on mass drug administration for each PC-NTD, the authors assess future treatment and impact assessment needs over the next ten years. In addition to enabling national programs to access and use their data, make better-informed decisions, and distribute resources more efficiently, the dashboards have been specifically designed to support these activities.