Increase public health data collection using Web based ASSIST Tool

  • To facilitate synergy in public health data collection and processing by strengthening data processes under the existing national government health information system as supported by the South African National AIDS Council’s comprehensive HIV/TB data dashboard and Situation Room, specifically geared to identify new trends, including those of synthetic drugs.
  • To facilitate meaningful overlay of Substance use, risk and substance use disorder data with HIV, TB, and other public health data across the health and social sectors.
  • To overlay public health data with census and other population data to improve characterization of communities for improved resource distribution. 
  • To create a platform for analysis and interpretation of Data Core data to support policy review/development and strategic planning at local, provincial, and national level.

The South Africa National AIDS Council (SANAC) is located within the Presidency and is tasked with coordination of the South African HIV and TB response.  This includes ensuring provision of interventions to strengthen prevention, and access to care, and collection and collation of HIV data to inform the country’s status towards achieving the 95-95-95 goals.  To facilitate the latter, SANAC has developed an extensive data dashboard which enables disaggregation data across geographic regions and enables mapping of periods of the HIV response to distinct events such as changes in policy or introduction of specific interventions.  The data dashboard has been further developed into a Situation Room, which enables visualization and presentation of this data in a meaningful way. 

The South African Medical research council hosts the SACENDU project, which amongst other activities collects treatment demand data from treatment facilities across South Africa, enabling an engagement with changing trends in treatment demand for individual substances, while also detailing intersections with HIV testing and related public health interventions at community level. The SACENDU webpage is hosted by the South African Medical Research Council website and includes a background of the project including access to Full reports; Briefs; Updates; Presentations (including treatment demand data, and alcohol and substance use related research presentations) HPCSA accredited Research translation and knowledge sharing workshop presentations (videos) and Important dates and contact information. 

Other partners include Statistics South Africa, whose role is to facilitate and nurture data ecosystems with a mission to “Transform the production, coordination and use of statistics through optimization, partnerships and innovation”; the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, whose mission is “To develop and coordinate evidence-based planning, monitoring and evaluation of developmental outcomes and impact.”; and other public health data value chain members. 

The Department of Social Development are the custodians of the Substance Use response in South Africa. The South African National Drug Masterplan (NDMP) provides the policy blueprint for addressing substance use and substance use disorders.  In addition to providing guidance for intersectoral (including through the Municipal Local Drug Action Committees and Provincial Substance Abuse Forums) and interdepartmental (through the Central Drug Authority [CDA]) collaboration in providing prevention and treatment services, the NDMP also mandates the creation of strategies for data collection (research) and comprehensive detection activities through screening and onward referral, for substance use disorders. It is under this framework that the University of Cape Town, through the International Technology Transfer Centre – South (ITTC-SA) has undertaken these collaborative efforts with national stakeholders to facilitate improved data provisioning for substance use, risk and substance use disorder in South Africa, and by extension the region and the continent. 

The U.S. Department of State INL-funded International Technology Transfer Centre – South Africa has collaborated at National level with the Department of Social Development, the Department of Health, the Department of Correctional Services, the Central Drug Authority, DA, the Department of Higher Education and Training (through Higher Health) and the Department of Basic Education to identify strategies to detect and provide intervention of harmful substance use.  South African policy as elaborated by the NDMP under the directives issued under Act No. 70 of 2008: Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act, 2008 provides guidance for tools which should be utilized in the provision of screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment for substance use.  The ITTC – SA has developed a Web App version of the WHO Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST).  This validated tool is used to establish the level of risk over the preceding 3 months and over a lifetime across multiple substances through 8 screening questions, followed by the provision of guidance for brief intervention or referral for more specialized assessment or treatment.  The ASSIST if used routinely across sites where social and health care providers interface with members of the public presents an opportunity for passive data collection to better profile specific risk across substances across geographical regions in South Africa, potentially a rich additional datapoint to support the SACENDU treatment demand data collection activities. The Web App development includes all versions of the ASSIST including those geared towards children and adolescence and is geared towards facilitating passive risk mapping for substance use within communities across sectors. 

Accomplishments to Date
  • The Web App ASSIST through SANAC? is fully developed and ready for use and is available resource to host an expanded data platform. 
  • The SACENDU platform is well established and is up and running, providing a blueprint for treatment demand monitoring across the region and the continent. 
  • The formative meetings between partners have begun and included ITTC-SA; SANAC; the Department of Social development; the Central Drug Authority; Statistics South Africa; and others with follow up engagements for rollout scheduled to resume in 2024. 
Project Activities
  • Build-out of SANAC Situation Room to incorporate additional public health data streams including Web App ASSIST and SACENDU data. 
  • Capacity building workshops (structure to be finalized) at local, provincial and national level to facilitate improved data submissions for HIV and TB data, as well as use of Web App ASSIST, with a specific focus on expanding screening inquiries to be comprehensively inclusive of questions around new and synthetic substances. 
  • Policymaker engagement to facilitate buy-in and integration of data packages into government information systems to inform resource distribution and policy development. 
  • Routine public data distribution sessions akin to the 6 monthly information sessions currently held by the South African Medical Research Council through SACENDU.
Global Level Outcomes
  • Improvement of global training packages pertaining to topic x. 
  • Improvement of data quality and context for World Drug Report. 
  • Improved conceptualization of interaction between trends in all specific substance use and risk including for synthetics.  
National Level Outcomes
  • Improved overlay of public health data for improved resource allocation and service monitoring 
  • Improved inter-departmental and inter-agency data cooperation. 
  • Improved public health information for public consumption. 
  • Access to a wealth of data for research projects. 

Current State Participants Organisations:

  • The South African Presidency through SANAC 
  • South African National Department of Social development 
  • South African Statistics South Africa  
  • South African Central Drug Authority 

Goodman Sibeko, University of Cape Town, International Technology Transfer Centre - South Africa, goodman [dot] sibeko [at] uct [dot] ac [dot] za (goodman[dot]sibeko[at]uct[dot]ac[dot]za)

Current State Participants
South Africa