PODD: A participatory surveillance platform that empowers communities to prevent zoonotic spillovers.

Chiang Mai University
Published: 08 June 2022
Last edited: 08 June 2022
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Summary

PODD is a participatory surveillance platform that empowers communities to prevent zoonotic spillovers.

 

We incentivize livestock owners to become “disease detectives,” operationalizing the critically important One Health approach, and preventing the next global pandemic before it begins. While you cannot train thousands of farmers to be epidemiologists, you can teach them to be the eyes and ears of the public health system.

 

We give farmers, livestock owners, and community volunteers a mobile application to take pictures of sick animals. The application sends these photos, along with observation notes (and geolocation data), to local veterinarians and health officials. When enough cases of sick animals with similar characteristics are reported within a defined radius, PODD triggers automated response actions. 

Classifications

Region
South Asia
Southeast Asia
Scale of implementation
National
Ecosystem
Agro-ecosystem
Rangeland / Pasture
Theme
Local actors
One Health
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Species Disease Early warning systems
Risk communication, community engagement and behaviour change
Outbreak investigation and access to laboratory
One Health
Animal health
Food systems
Health related aspects of socio-economic factors such as poverty, education, social security structures, digitalisation, financing systems, human capacity development 
Neglected tropical diseases, emerging infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, zoonoses, antimicrobial resistance
Water, sanitation and hygiene
Challenges
Health
Lack of food security
Lack of technical capacity
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry

Location

Thailand

Challenges

We are combating the spread of zoonotic emerging infectious diseases before they spread to humans and become pandemics. An estimated 60% of known infectious diseases—such as SARS, MERS, Avian Flu, Swine Flu, and HIV—are zoonotic in origin, meaning they “spillover” from animals to humans. Zoonosis represents over 75% of all emerging diseases, with COVID-19 serving as the latest example of how spillover events impact our world.

 

Zoonosis is a major barrier to poverty alleviation around the world, particularly in less developed countries that lack disease surveillance infrastructure and depend on animals for daily life. As our cities grow, expanding farmland and deforestation encroach on wild animal habitats, increasing the likelihood of spillover. This is especially worrying since the majority of livestock owners practice backyard farming in close proximity to other animals and people. According to most infectious disease experts, it’s not a matter of if—but when the next pandemic will happen.

Beneficiaries

Livestock owners, Local governments, and National governments.

How do the building blocks interact?

The PODD project is governed by three pillars: Local Government or local community, Community Volunteers, and PODD Technology. Relevant government, community, and non-governmental organizations should be involved as early as possible. It is important to know the PODD roles and responsibilities of national, regional and district levels, since assigning responsibilities prior to an outbreak reduces the need to divert time and energy during the outbreak. 

Impacts

When you empower local communities with technology to solve problems themselves, they care more about the solution. Our theory of change is that giving communities tools to monitor the health of their environment, animals, and themselves is in fact the best way to stop spillovers before it’s too late. 

 

While stopping “The Next Pandemic” has clear and tangible impacts for the world, preventing the frequent minor outbreaks matters as well. Smaller animal-only outbreaks matter not only because saving a local government millions in damages and keeping farmers in business are positive, but focusing on challenges that directly impact farmers’ lives leads to better preparedness for a pandemic when it arrives. Engaging farmers beyond rare pandemic events results in more participatory data—and stronger early detection systems in the future.

 

Since PODD launched in 2014, we’ve grown to include over 600 local government officials handling reported cases and over 20,000 “disease detectives” participating in community disease surveillance. Over the past six years, we’ve recorded 330,000 disease detection reports and successfully prevented widespread transmission in more than 100 animal outbreaks. 

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Matt Parker Opendream