Mobile apps tackling India’s snakebite problem

Mobile apps tackling India’s snakebite problem

Amid India's staggering average of 58,000 annual fatalities from snakebites, snakebite apps emerge as critical interventions, aiding in healthcare access and spreading awareness.

On a hot summer afternoon in July 2023, a saw-scaled viper (a species of snakes) stung 12-year-old Nandita in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur region. After the panicking family reached the Asha worker Archana’s home, she immediately opened up an application on her mobile phone and started following the instructions accordingly till the vehicle arrived to admit Nandita to the hospital.

Archana learnt using the application ‘The Snakebite Assistant’ in a community workshop held in 2022. The application developed by Snakebite Healing and Education Society (SHE-INDIA) has 10K+ downloads. It works on the principle of offering guidance to victims and first responders to prevent snakebites and to respond appropriately at 3 levels: Paramedics, health centres and district hospitals.

“Earlier, the immediate response to a snakebite often involved taking the patient to a faith healer or hospital. However, the critical first few hours post-bite can determine the outcome between life and death. The app provides clear and efficient instructions for administering first aid, significantly enhancing the chances of survival and minimizing potential complications,” Archana told Mojo Story.

The app provides a comprehensive list of updated training material divided according to the stratified knowledge of the user and links to educational material for individuals, communities, and schools.

“Initially, when we used to go to the villages ourselves and conduct the training session. But later we realised the better way to spread awareness is to conduct the capacity building workshops amongst Zila Parishad, Asha workers or Sarpanch who are well-connected with the locals,” said, Priyanka Kadam, founder of SHE-India.

India’s snakebite problem

India remains the nation most severely impacted by snake bite incidents, with an annual average of 58,000 fatalities, comprising over half of the global total of 81,000 –138,000 deaths. In 2020, a comprehensive study was conducted in eight states—Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, the combined region of Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana), Rajasthan, and Gujarat— and was concluded that they bear the greatest burden of snakebite fatalities, contributing to over 70% of deaths from 2001 to 2014.

In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated snakebite as a neglected tropical disease. Subsequently, in 2019, it established a goal to reduce the global impact of snakebite by 50% by the year 2030.

“It is a nice guide for the young medical professionals to take all the observations, assessing the parameters, to ascertain whether the person is envenomed or not… The apps are a good tool for researchers to conduct extensive studies other than the general public,” said Kadam.

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