San Diego, as a border city, is home to a diverse ethnic population, within which Asian and Hispanic groups show higher incidence of silent diseases like Hepatitis B or diabetes. As its name implies, silent diseases rarely present symptoms until a late stage. By making the public aware of the importance behind vigilance, screening, and treatment of such diseases, education is a vital public health intervention to mitigate disease transmission.
The approach we, the Asian Pacific Health Foundation (APHF), have taken in educating communities is the train-the-trainer model, where individuals within a community can be educated on any health topic, and in turn become trainers that can educate others within a community or social network. By treating information like a transmissible disease, everyone has a role in decreasing transmission of silent diseases.
In this model, a recurring issue we have faced is motivating trainers to continue educating others about what they have learned. Even when there are motivated trainers, visibility of their efforts was limited to members of our organization. To address these issues and expand our reach, we have been using the Shiny R package to develop a webapp, currently dubbed the “APHF Community Education Tracking App” (CETA). This application is meant to compliment the train-the trainer model and serve as a publicly accessible database for education statistics on various health topics. By tracking education efforts at both the individual and community level, we aim to drive the spread of health information through communities across the nation.
At the individual level, CETA tracks personal education efforts to motivate trainers in their teaching. Through the administration of a knowledge assessment for any health topic, such as viral hepatitis, educated individuals can be added to the database of those knowledgeable about viral hepatitis and given their own ID. If these individuals continue on to be trainers, they can educate others on the topic and then direct them to CETA. These trainees can give credit to their trainers by listing the trainer ID. Trainers can track their profile statistics to see how many individuals they have directly educated. In addition, trainers can see how many people they have indirectly educated through their trainees’ education efforts, and so on. Ultimately, we plan to allow trainers to see the geographical reach of their efforts, a visual representation of their individual impact within communities nationwide.
At the community level, CETA serves as a platform in which large-scale education efforts can be tracked. As a visual database, CETA can be used to analyze how well health information is transmitted through a diverse range of communities. Through a zip code search, CETA allows any individual to see how many community members have been educated in a geographic area, filtered across various health topics. With this information, deficiencies and disparities in health education and resources can be identified. Similar to a disease transmission map, data from CETA can be used to better inform resource allocation.
CETA is meant to be easily expandible in terms of content and reach. Inherently, its modular design allows virtually any health topic to be added and can be made to accomodate sociocultural topics, given that the appropriate resources are provided. As a virtual platform, CETA opens the door to partner with organizations across the nation with a mutual goal for community education and health outreach. As the reach of CETA expands, so would the ability for public health research to close education disparities and create tangible community change.
At its core, CETA is a tool accessible to volunteer trainers, resource centers, and public offices alike to understand where and how educational inequities present within a community. With its development, we hope to not only increase individual awareness of health topics, but to start conversations in which communities can begin to take control of their own education.