Using RapidPro to support the dissemination of information on the Service Availability and Readiness Assignment (SARA) census

Launched: March 2017

The Service Availability and Readiness Assignment (SARA) census was a main objective of the DPPI in MoHS, for the first quarter of 2017. The census was carried out with technical support from JSI (Global Fund) and WHO. 

The main goal of the census of all Peripheral Health Units (PHUs), was to assess health service availability and health facility readiness in the country. The survey is usually conducted annually, however the last was in 2013, but no report was produced following the survey. In view of the recent Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, the Directorate of Policy, Planning and Information (DPPI) wanted to conduct a comprehensive survey across all health facilities in the country, to get a true sense of the status of facilities post-EVD outbreak. Due to delays in logistic arrangements, the originally planned SARA dates had to be postponed.

Given some of the challenges that exist in direct communication with Peripheral Health Units (PHUs) in Sierra Leone and as the date for the survey period had moved, it was decided to prepare the PHU In-Charges with a sensitization message sent from RapidPro. Additionally, in order to help make the SARA survey proceed as smoothly as possible for the enumerators, the PHU In-Charges would be asked to confirm they themselves were still the main contact for that particular facility. This would enable easier coordination.

Using the contact details from the previous MoHS/UNICEF National Health Facility survey, we sent an SMS to 1,183 contacts with the following content:

"Dear InCharge a reminder that d MoHS Health Facility survey is from 6thMar-14thApr. Are U d main contact for ur facility? REPLY 1-Yes or 2-No. All sms are FREE."

Approximately 13% of the 1,183 contacts made a response to the question. Based on what was deemed to be a low response rate, a second supplementary SARA poll was sent out, again to the 1,183 contacts for PHU In-Charges, again reminding about the survey information and asking the following question(s):

"Dear InCharge a reminder that d MoHS Health Facility survey is from 7thMar-15thApr. Are U d main contact for ur facility? REPLY 1-Yes or 2-No. All sms are FREE."

Depending on the responses received, Yes or No, more information on the facility was requested from the respondent, including:

"Ok. Please REPLY with ur facility NAME. Type the full name please." Or "Ok. Do U have contact NUMBER of the current Incharge for d Facility? REPLY 1-Yes 2-No"

While we received a response rate of 30% to the first question of the poll, full completion (requiring answering a max of 4 further questions) was 24%.

Lessons learned:

In light of the lower than hoped for response rate, the Hub committed to plan for increased sensitization with Health Workers on the RapidPro service (and Short code) to deliver increased response rates in the future. The low response rate also prompted the eHealth Coordination Hub to request that SARA teams collect in-charges contact details and phone numbers to update PHU in-charges contact information. 

For more information please contact Shane O'Connor- Technology for Development Specialist, UNICEF Sierra Leone