The researchers used sampling software for Windows Mobile devices to compile complete lists of households in the area and employed GPS systems to locate homes and interview a random sample of people. Study co-author Jodi Vanden Eng in a statement said, "Before we developed this method using these devices, it usually took days, or even weeks to complete the same task" that the researchers now can accomplish in one day.
The researchers powered the PDAs with a car battery, "making them an excellent alternative to use where bringing a laptop would be impossible," according to Vanden Eng.
The PDAs included electronic questionnaires with built-in data checks to reduce human error, according to the researchers. The technology allows data aggregation, verification and identification of input errors within minutes.
Researchers also used PDAs to evaluate the impact of distributing no-cost ITNs through childhood immunization campaigns. The authors were able to transmit data to Ministries of Health, program managers, international scientists and policymakers within hours of collecting the information.
Researchers said they believe the new tools could be useful in many public health scenarios, including disaster response and efforts to provide aid to underserved regions.
Other scientists are being offered the GPS software. CDC also is studying other public health uses for the PDA technology, such as tracking bar-coded lab specimens from the field or using smart phone technology to transfer field data immediately. Chinese officials currently are testing similar technology for tracking bird flu.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation