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Trachoma mapping ahead of schedule and under budget

A project mapping the global prevalence of trachoma using mobile technology has marked two years since the launch and confirmed that 94% of its planned districts have been surveyed ahead of schedule and under budget.

As a result, the number of districts covered in the Global Trachoma Mapping Project (GTMP), which is funded by the UK government, will be increased by 50% between now and 2015.

In 2012 a team of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and academics, who were led by Sightsavers, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), successfully secured a £10.6m grant to globally map trachoma by March 2015. The funding was awarded by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID).

To date, the project has worked with partners to examine over 1.7 million people in 19 countries and mapped 1,162 districts which represents a population of 137 million people.

The mapping project has resulted in the global rollout of a standardised assessment process, which sees trained eye health workers use a smartphone app for testing. It entails survey teams visiting and examining the eyes of people living in communities within pre-identified areas to capture data on the presence of the disease. These data are then used to update the Trachoma Atlas, an ITI tool which tracks the global burden of trachoma.

The data are also being used to help the ministries of health to develop their trachoma intervention programmes to eliminate the disease.

The completion of the mapping will prove to be a key step in achieving the World Health Organization's (WHO) objective of eliminating the blinding disease by 2020.

Director of neglected tropical diseases (NTD) at Sightsavers, Simon Bush, said: "One of the biggest challenges of mapping trachoma has always been reaching the remote areas where prevalence of the disease is suspected. It is therefore a huge achievement to have designed a standardised programme that is rapidly delivering this. Collaboration, partnership, quality and a standardised approach have been key in mapping the identified districts in just two years.

"GTMP has delivered nearly half of all the trachoma surveys that have ever been conducted, and faster than anticipated. The number of districts will continue to grow as the remaining funds are used to expand the project scope to include more districts, further filling in the blanks on the Trachoma Atlas."

(Taken From Optometry Today www.optometry.co.uk)

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