Background: In the early 2000s, electronic surveillance systems began to be developed to collect and transmit data on infectious diseases in low-income countries (LICs) in real-time using mobile technologies. Such surveillance systems, however, are still very rare in Africa. Among the non-infectious epidemics to be surveilled are road traffic injuries, which constitute major health events and are the fifth leading cause of mortality in Africa. This situation also prevails in Burkina Faso, whose capital city, Ouagadougou, is much afflicted by this burden. There is no surveillance system, but there have been occasional surveys, and media reports of fatal crashes are numerous and increasing in frequency.
Objective: The objective of this article is to present the methodology and implementation of, and quality of results produced by, a prototype of a road traffic crash and trauma surveillance system in the city of Ouagadougou.
Methods: A surveillance system was deployed in partnership with the National Police over a six-month period, from February to July 2015, across the entire city of Ouagadougou. Data were collected by all seven units of the city’s National Police road crash intervention service. They were equipped with geotracers that geolocalized the crash sites and sent their positions by SMS (short message service) to a surveillance platform developed using the open-source tool Ushahidi. Descriptive statistical analyses and spatial analyses (kernel density) were subsequently performed on the data collected.
Results: The process of data collection by police officers functioned well. Researchers were able to validate the data collection on road crashes by comparing the number of entries in the platform against the number of reports completed by the crash intervention teams. In total, 873 crash scenes were recorded over 3 months. The system was accessible on the Internet for open consultation of the map of crash sites. Crash-concentration analyses were produced that identified ‘hot spots’ in the city. Nearly 80% of crashes involved two-wheeled vehicles. Crashes were more numerous at night and during rush hours. They occurred primarily at intersections with traffic lights. With regard to health impacts, half of the injured were under the age of 29 years, and 6 persons were killed.
Conclusions: This pilot study demonstrated the feasibility of developing simple surveillance systems, based on mHealth, in LICs.