MANILA – The Philippines will start using an SMS-based early warning disease surveillance system in a move to speed up reporting of disease outbreaks in real time and allow health officials to respond to emergency situations.
Called Surveillance in Post Extreme Emergencies and Disasters (SPEED), it serves as an early warning disease surveillance system that aims to detect any unusual increase in cases of communicable and non-communicable diseases in areas hit by calamities.
SPEED is the first of its kind in the world which uses SMS-based real-time reporting during disasters.
“I believe reporting via SMS is the way forward. The technology is widely available, affordable and easy to use especially in the Philippines where everybody has at least one cell phone and Filipinos are known for their love of texting,” said Dr. Soe Nyunt-U, country representative of the World Health Organization during a press briefing Wednesday.
The Department of Health has started a three-day national simulation of the new system to test the readiness of its health workers and health emergency managers from 80 provinces, 1,500 municipalities, and 137 cities in the country.
The WHO has turned over what it calls a SPEED Health Facility Code book that assigns a code for each health facility, allowing trained personnel to get quick access to some 11,395 health facilities including barangay health stations, government and private hospitals, and identified evacuation centers.
Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said SPEED was used during the leptospirosis outbreak in Cagayan de Oro, which was severely hit by Typhoon Sendong.
“It was considered as the worst outbreak of leptospirosis in recent memory,” said Tayag, adding that the system allowed health authorities to institute measures to contain the disease from further spreading.
SPEED is expected to be useful in reporting disease outbreaks in displaced populations during disasters.
Under the system, trained health workers are the ones to report on diseases, guided by a list of 21 syndromes and the SPEED Health Facility Code book. Aside from texting, they can also fax or send their report via the internet.