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Tropical Data

An introduction to the global initiative helping countries to collect high-quality, standardised prevalence data on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)

What is Tropical Data?

Tropical Data is a global initiative helping countries to collect high-quality, standardised prevalence data on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by supporting health ministries from the start to the end of the survey process.

Using the same standardised approach and technology as the Global Trachoma Mapping Project (GTMP), Tropical Data supports work in some of the world’s most remote and difficult environments, helping countries on their path to eliminate these diseases. Tropical Data currently supports countries to carry out baseline, impact, surveillance and TT-only surveys for trachoma, with work under way to support surveys for other NTDs.

Tropical Data offers support through each step of the survey process. However, country programmes are responsible for delivering and funding in-country implementation under the ownership of their Ministry of Health.

Tropical Data service

Tropical Data provides:

  • Epidemiological support for the survey protocol development and sampling using WHO approved methodology

  • Planning and budgeting support if required

  • Qualified trainers and bespoke training support

  • Support with data collection, storage, cleaning, approvals and analysis.

Tropical Data ensures outputs are of the highest quality

Diagram showing the Tropical Data process as described below (Click to enlarge)

Tropical Data surveys

A Tropical Data survey involves in its entirety (not just one of these aspects in isolation of the others:

  • Scientific review of protocols by dedicated subject-specific epidemiologists, with WHO sign-off that the protocol conforms to WHO guidance and guidelines.

  • Standardised training including: standardised training manuals, certification of trainees and quality assurance processes so there is confidence in the quality of the survey data collection process.

  • Electronic data capture with standardised data collection fields to ensure programmatically-actionable data and limit data entry errors and loss.

  • Near-real-time data cleaning using automated data cleaning algorithms and a dedicated data team, enabled by automatic, encrypted data upload to a secure central server, to facilitate feedback to teams whilst in the field.

  • Standardised data analyses using automated algorithms and/or specialist, objective data managers, to ensure all surveys have the same outputs.

  • Data review undertaken by both specialist data managers and one or more designated health ministry personnel.

  • Prevalence results shared to inform programme planning.

  • Capacity building through national and international trainings and resources available on the website, such as budget templates, protocol guidelines, training manuals, and data download guides.

  • Scientific oversight of the whole process to ensure quality assurance and quality control at every stage.

Supporting resources

Detailed resources are available on the Tropical Data website to support health ministries, including:

  • Project planning and protocols

  • Training system for trachoma prevalence surveys

  • Training system for TT-only surveys

  • Data management

  • Website navigation

  • How to download and access data

  • Demo project – expanded trichiasis and district reports.

Data storage

As with the GTMP, all the data are owned by the country and accessed through a secure web portal. The data are stored, in encrypted form, on a section of a cloud-based server dedicated to the project.

The trachoma data can be automatically transferred to a joint database so that staff from the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Trachoma Initiative can help with applications for donated drugs and completion of dossiers for validation. District-level prevalence category data are also used to update the open-access Global Atlas of Trachoma and the portal for the Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Advantages of Tropical Data

Save money: Having current and accurate data can save substantial programme costs. With data cleaned and analysed in near-real time, the information needed to properly allocate resources in-country is provided in a timely manner. The service is also free to use and provides significant support at every step of the survey process.

Quality: The proven approach to supporting globally standardised, epidemiologically robust prevalence surveys, with quality assurance and quality control from the start to the end of the process, ensures quality data for programmatic decision-making and supporting disease control, elimination or eradication claims.

Go with the global standard: Because of its globally standardised training and certification systems, survey protocols that conform to WHO recommendations, field methodologies, and data cleaning process, programmes can have confidence in the data generated through Tropical Data.

Who’s behind the Tropical Data service?

The team behind the service includes the International Trachoma Initiative, RTI International, Sightsavers and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. To achieve high-quality outcomes the team collaborates closely with the WHO, governments, donors, academic institutions, non-governmental organisations and other implementing partners.

As you read this article, you will recognise that the word “standardised” is used several times. What does this mean and why is it important for eliminating trachoma?

© London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
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