Laying the groundwork for a successful field evaluation of the pneumonia diagnostics project

Copyright Malaria Consortium VHT preparing to use the RR respiratory rate counter while being observed by the research team

As Programme Coordinator for Malaria Consortium’s pneumonia diagnostics project, I visited Uganda last week to see the preparations underway for the final stage of the project: the field evaluation. During three months, our teams will study the usability and acceptability of previously selected devices to find the best one for diagnosing pneumonia – a major killer of children under five in sub-Saharan Africa.

I recently attended a training conducted by three master trainers in Mpigi town where seven village health team members (VHTs) were learning how to assess the first pair of devices: a respiratory rate phone application called RRate and a pulse oximeter called UTECH. The training went very well, with six out of seven assessors passing with a 90 percent competency score. We will now continue to train all 25 assessors who will be participating in the study for the next three months.

Copyright Malaria Consortium

VHTs focused on the consent process as part of their training Mpigi.

I then joined the Malaria Consortium research team who were conducting assessments in the field with previously trained VHTs. This was to support the research team with on the ground training on conducting this element of the study and on providing supervision to the VHTs to ensure they were able to assess the diagnostic devices.

Copyright Malaria Consortium

VHT preparing to use the RR respiratory rate counter while being observed by the research team

As sensitisation of key audiences before the field evaluation activity is key to the success of this phase, this part of the project was very well planned and executed by the Ugandan team.

Firstly, the team held a pneumonia diagnostics sensitisation meeting with 40 heads of health centres in Mpigi district at the Health Centre IV in the town. The objective was to inform these key stakeholders of the project and ensure they understood why and how patients might come their way during the three-month field evaluation period.

After my presentation on the overall project aims and objectives, I  received interesting comments on inclusion criteria, the rationale for the study and on how pulse oximetry is an unknown tool in Uganda. The master trainers then demonstrated the devices and had good questions on the background for the study and how referrals would be handled. It was agreed that Malaria Consortium would provide an oxygen concentrator to Mpigi Health Centre IV to ensure oxygen would be available for any referred patients if required.

Copyright Malaria Consortium

A master trainer demonstrates a fingertip pulse oximeter to a health centre manager in Mpigi.

Copyright Malaria Consortium

A master trainer demonstrates a fingertip pulse oximeter to health centre managers in Mpigi

On the following day, I attended a sensitisation meeting of 20 district health officials, including the District Health Officer (DHO) and their assistants, at the Mpigi District Health Office where I presented on the project and the implications for the district. The DHO confirmed the need for the study and while expressing his gratitude for the support to date. All attendants were very interested to see the devices and were happy to hear Malaria Consortium had supported the Health Centre with an oxygen concentrator.

The field evaluation started in Mpigi district in October and will continue running during the months of November and December 2015. The dissemination of results on the usability and acceptability of the devices is planned for January and February 2016.

Kevin Baker is the Pneumonia Diagnostics Programme Coordinator