New app can revolutionise fight against diabetes in rural India

George Institute campaign on diabetes Representational image | Twitter handle of the The George Institute

A new app will help health workers diagnose diabetes among people in rural India. The app, developed in Australia, is part of the IMPACT diabetes programme, designed by the Sydney-based George Institute for Global Health. As part of the programme, the institute will train community health workers known as ASHAs in using this app to record health data and use it for diagnosis.

The workers will use the app to record the patients' case history, sugar levels, blood pressure, and their weight and height measurements to calculate their risk score for diabetes. Using the score, those found to be at high risk, or with a diagnosis, of diabetes will then be referred to a doctor. They will then be given tips to modify their diet and advised exercise. The health workers will also follow up with the patients undergoing treatment, so that their condition is “properly managed,” according to the George Institute.

“About 50 million people in India have Type 2 diabetes, and numbers are on the rise. IMPACT Diabetes (part of the institute's SMARTHealth programme) will help people living in rural areas access timely, affordable and guideline-based healthcare in the community; reduce the risk of developing life-threatening complications and save lives,” said Professor Vivekanand Jha, executive director of The George Institute for Global Health, India.

Professor David Peiris, director of Health Systems Science at the George Institute, Australia, said, “The programme’s success will provide lessons to other countries struggling with the rising cost of providing essential healthcare to their citizens. This is a great example of how you can expand the role of community health workers with digital technology and help address the growing burden of chronic disease not just in India, but globally.”

The app comes at a time when the government is planning to launch a comprehensive screening programme for adults over 30 years of age across the country. Under the government's Ayushman Bharat programme, rural health workers such as ASHAs and ANMs are being trained to screen patients for five common non-communicable diseases—hypertension and diabetes and cancers of the cervix, breast and oral cavity. Several states are training their female community health workers to conduct these tests, the results of which will then be sent to a doctor at a primary health centre.