How Mobile Forms Help StrongMinds Treat Depression at Scale in Uganda

Posted by on Jul 11, 2018 9:08:00 AM
Jess McWeeney
strongminds

An estimated one in four women suffers from major depression with limited access to treatment in Uganda. StrongMinds, founded in 2013, was created to respond to the epidemic of depression in women in Sub-Saharan Africa.

StrongMinds empowers impoverished women with depression by providing effective treatment at scale and enables these women and their families to lead more healthy, productive, and satisfying lives.

“We provide group-based talk therapy to address depression, and we currently work in Uganda, which is a country in East Africa with a very high prevalence of depression,” said Kari Frame, Program Director for StrongMinds.

StrongMinds has treated 30,000 women to date across Uganda, operating some 400 talk therapy groups spanning four districts.

“Our main goal is to help women to recover from their illness so that they can go back to their lives and put that energy back into taking care of themselves, participating in the economy, and taking care of their children,” Frame said.

Streamlining Day-to-Day Operations in the Field

An African woman shares during a group talk therapy sessionStrongMinds brings talk therapy groups directly into the communities across Uganda where women in need of treatment live. Therapy groups are led by counselors who are recruited from the community as well.

There needed to be a way to collect data from therapy groups and have it sent back to StrongMinds’ headquarters in Uganda, as well as made accessible for colleagues based in the United States. By using Device Magic mobile forms, group facilitators collect and submit data while they are out in the field leading their groups.

“That ability to allow for the data to be uploaded very easily in the communities where we work and then transferred up to our headquarters in Uganda, and then from there sent to me, for example, sitting in the United States, is really valuable,” Frame said.

Therapy group facilitators use Device Magic mobile forms on tablets to track session attendance, weekly progress and monitor day-to-day activities, “which is really beneficial to us,” Frame said.

Collecting the data allows StrongMinds to understand the status of each therapy group and ensure that women are progressing, or address concerns as needed. Data is sent to StrongMinds’ monitoring and evaluation department, who can prompt facilitators for forms if necessary. It is also accessible to therapy group supervisors, who can then monitor which forms have been completed by their team members for which groups.

“What I also really love about it [Device Magic] is that, for example, StrongMinds Uganda’s Executive Director can review the information on her phone, I can review the forms on my phone through the app in Brooklyn, long after my colleagues in Uganda have ended their workday. So there’s a tremendous ability for us to review and see the progress and ensure that there’s transparency,” Frame said.

Measuring the Effectiveness of Talk Therapy Groups

“We love that the forms can be accessed on tablets by our mental health facilitators in the field so that they can upload information either before or after, or sometimes even during a therapy session. Those forms that we use on the [Device Magic] app compliment the clinical case notes that our facilitators collect, and help us track our progress,” Frame said.

StrongMinds’ real-time data collection efforts are important because it allows them to track and measure how their therapy groups are actually helping women. They have the data to prove and show how the process is working.

Using Device Magic makes the data collection process easier and ensures that StrongMinds can reach their goal of treating even more women.

“We’re the only organization doing this in Sub-Saharan Africa, and our goal is to treat as many women as possible. Anything that can help us do that better is helping us reach our core mission,” Frame said.

Improving the Data Collection Process

StrongMinds Therapy Group in Discussion“A typical facilitator has about 100 clients at any given time. So [using Device Magic mobile forms] makes the process of tracking those clients, tracking their participation and attendance, flagging a supervisor when she has concerns, and just makes her day so much easier and efficient,” Frame said.

Because having all of the data is so critical, StrongMinds needs to ensure that it is collected accurately, and also to make the process easy for their busy therapy facilitators.

“Nobody likes to sit down and enter data over and over and over again. It’s not a particularly fun part of the work, but it’s really important to us, so the fact that Device Magic allows it to be relatively painless is great,” Frame said.

From Paper to a Flexible Mobile Forms Solution

Initially, StrongMinds was relying on a paper-based data collection process, which made getting data back from the field a challenge. After they made the move to digital and switched to tablets, they were using another data collection solution. But this system was rigid and wasn’t able to grow with StrongMinds. The flexibility and ability to use Device Magic as they grew was essential.

“We had used a previous digital platform, that was our first foray into digital monitoring and digital data collection, but that system was more rigid. It was harder to make it grow as StrongMinds grew [...] We love the fact that Device Magic brings with it some of that flexibility,” Frame said.

StrongMinds finds Device Magic’s user-friendly interface and customization options valuable. Mobile forms also helps them to easily detect and remove duplicate entries, which is important for maintaining accurate data.

“We love that we can customize the forms, that they can be edited by my colleagues directly, and that we can tailor accessibility so that supervisors can review their teams’ groups and forms,” Frame said.

Maintaining Accountability with Donors and Partners

Collecting accurate data is important for maintaining transparency with donors and partners. As a non-profit, StrongMinds is funded by grants and donations. Having easy access to data allows them to demonstrate how their programs are working to donors and continue to find funding.

“We’re working to treat as many women successfully as we can and to do so as cost efficiently as we can. So we have to be accountable to our donors and our partners for the number of women that we serve. It’s really valuable to us that we have the ability to know from a day-to-day perspective how many women are in therapy, what attendance rates and participation rates may be, and how women are doing.

“Some of our screening scores are stored within the app to allow us to track progress and to evaluate whether the therapy intervention is serving women in the groups that our facilitators are leading,” Frame said.

Using a digital data collection solution allows StrongMinds to monitor their programs and keep donors informed in an efficient and cost-effective way. “If we can do a bit more with a bit less, we can ultimately treat more women in a given year,” Frame said.

Selecting the right product for your business is an important step, but all data collection tools do not provide equal results. Having a solution that supports your data collection process and enables you to collect and send data wherever you need it—even across continents—is crucial. Choose a solution that meets your needs now, and is flexible and scalable as your business grows.

Finding the right mobile data collection solution and using forms on mobile devices has allowed StrongMinds to have better access to their data and to operate more efficiently, which helps them reach their core mission.

“We’re focused on serving and treating as many women with depression as we can, and anything that helps make our work easier and more efficient means we can help more women overcome their illness and put that energy and newfound well-being into improving their lives and the lives of their children,” Frame said.


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Topics: Mobile Forms