South Africa – A systematic review on mobile health applications for foodborne disease outbreak management




Foodborne disease outbreaks are common and notifiable in South Africa; however, they are rarely reported and poorly investigated. Surveillance data from the notification system is suboptimal and limited, and does not provide adequate information to guide public health action and inform policy. We performed a systematic review of published literature to identify mobile application-based outbreak response systems for managing foodborne disease outbreaks and to determine the elements that the system requires to generate foodborne disease data needed for public action.


Studies were identified through literature searches using online databases on PubMed/Medline, CINAHL, Academic Search Complete, Greenfile, Library, Information Science & Technology. Search was limited to studies published in English during the period January 1990 to November 2020. Search strategy included various terms in varying combinations with Boolean phrases “OR” and “AND”. Data were collected following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses Statement. A standardised data collection tool was used to extract and summarise information from identified studies. We assessed qualities of mobile applications by looking at the operating system, system type, basic features and functionalities they offer for foodborne disease outbreak management.


Five hundred and twenty-eight (528) publications were identified, of which 48 were duplicates. Of the remaining 480 studies, 2.9% (14/480) were assessed for eligibility. Only one of the 14 studies met the inclusion criteria and reported on one mobile health application named MyMAFI (My Mobile Apps for Field Investigation). There was lack of detailed information on the application characteristics. However, based on minimal information available, MyMAFI demonstrated the ability to generate line lists, reports and offered functionalities for outbreak verification and epidemiological investigation. Availability of other key components such as environmental and laboratory investigations were unknown.


There is limited use of mobile applications on management of foodborne disease outbreaks. Efforts should be made to set up systems and develop applications that can improve data collection and quality of foodborne disease outbreak investigations.

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