Using phones to fight leprosy

September 14, 2017

How a new smartphone app will help healthcare workers tackle disability and discrimination


People often talk about leprosy as one of the world’s oldest diseases.  It is a disease that exists in communities of disadvantage and poverty.  If untreated, it can lead to disfigurement and disability, and for many it causes stigma, discrimination and social isolation.

So what is the connection between this ancient disease and the world of smartphones apps?

“A major challenge for health and rehabilitation services in low income areas is staff skill development.  Making sure that staff, volunteers, family members and the people themselves have the necessary skills to manage disability is vital. ” said Dr Pim Kuipers, ILEP Global Policy Advisor, “In the case of leprosy,  staff need particular skills and the people affected are often scattered across a large area, so this new app could make a real difference in the treatment of people affected by leprosy, says Dr Kuipers.

Across nearly all countries, many health and welfare workers now have smartphones.  The technology is strategically important: even in low income settings, smartphones can be relatively inexpensive, staff are often highly skilled at using them, and some health services supply them to staff.

This new app, which will be available free of charge, will help users to provide high quality, basic therapy and rehabilitation for people with a number of disabling conditions.

ILEP members are involving key experts to make sure that the RehApp includes a leprosy component, and vital leprosy information.  ILEP members are funding the leprosy component of the app, and an ILEP team will be working together to provide the leprosy rehabilitation content (skills and information) for the app – to make sure it meets the needs of people with leprosy-related disability.

“We think this a great opportunity to use contemporary technology to reach many thousands of workers, volunteers, family members and people affected by leprosy,” says Dr Kuipers. “By giving health care workers high quality information to prevent leprosy-related disabilities, this new app looks set to be another potentially powerful tool in the fight against this ancient disease.”