The cholera phone: Diarrheal disease surveillance by mobile phone in Bangladesh

Leela Sengupta Carstensen, Charlotte Crim Tamason, Rebeca Sultana, Suhella Mohan Tulsiani, Matthew David Phelps, Emily Suzanne Gurley, Peter Kjær Mac Kie Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Existing methodologies to record diarrheal disease incidence in households have limitations due to a highepisode recall error outside a 48-hour window. Our objective was to use mobile phones for reporting diarrheal episodes in households to provide real-time incidence data with minimum resource consumption and low recall error. From June 2014 to June 2015, we enrolled 417 low-income households in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and asked them to report diarrheal episodes to a call center. A team of data collectors then visited persons reporting the episode to collect data. In addition, each month, the team conducted in-home surveys on diarrhea incidence for a preceding 48-hour period. The mobile phone surveillance reported an incidence of 0.16 cases per person-year (95% CI: 0.13 0.19), with 117 reported diarrhea cases, and the routine in-home survey detected an incidence of 0.33 cases per person-year (95% CI: 0.18 0.60), the incidence rate ratio was 2.11 (95% CI: 1.08 3.78). During focus group discussions, participants reported a lack in motivation to report diarrhea by phone because of the absence of provision of intervening treatment following reporting. Mobile phone technology can provide a unique tool for real-time disease reporting. The phone surveillance in this study reported a lower incidence of diarrhea than an in-home survey, possibly because of the absence of intervention and, therefore, a perceived lack of incentive to report.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-516
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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