Using Technology for Participatory Surveillance of COVID-19 in Colombia

The Colombian Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP), housed within the National Institute of Health of Colombia, has been conducting participatory surveillance of COVID-19 using a specially developed mobile application (app) called CoronApp. 

Developed jointly by Colombia’s National Digital Agency and its National Institute of Health, CoronApp serves the important purpose of helping public health officials collect data on the symptoms of people in Colombia, aiding their decision-making, while also providing its users with information to help them take precautions against and seek treatment for COVID-19. CoronApp has proven to be a particularly useful tool for helping Colombian officials focus their efforts on regions where there is high demand for interventions that will mitigate COVID-19 transmission.

CoronApp’s functionalities include daily symptom self-reporting to help with case detection in the affected population. When a person self-reports symptoms that are possibly indicative of COVID-19, the app classifies him or her as a possible case. CoronApp uses the self-reporting component to classify epidemiological data into three distinct categories by risk level: Warning (suspected case), Alert (a case that meets the criteria for identification by health workers), and Normal (confirmed case). 

The app also provides its users with useful information about COVID-19 from the government, including statistics and information about accessing health care services. CoronApp plays an important role in risk communication by sharing recommendations with its users for self-care and avoiding mass gatherings. The app allows its users to find information about programs offered by the Colombian government to assist, for example, with financial hardship resulting from mandatory quarantine.

Cross-referencing CoronApp’s data with data from Colombia’s public health surveillance system, health officials use information on suspected cases to coordinate quarantines and medical visits. The app also allows health officials to identify clusters of cases in each municipality, illustrating, through GIS (geographic information systems) mapping, areas of overlap where self-reported confirmed cases and alerts are located. Officials have been able to apply this surveillance innovation to collect information that enables them to address social behaviors and control the spread of the virus.

The National Institute of Health and the FETP are integrating the lessons that they have learned this year to improve public health surveillance in Colombia. CoronApp is currently serving as the basis and means for a robust early warning system, which is proving to be critically important to ending the COVID-19 pandemic.