Miss Catherine Halkon1, Mrs Claire Boardman1
1RHDAustralia, Menzies School Of Health Research , Casuarina , Australia
Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) are preventable conditions which have been largely eliminated from developed countries yet Australia has one of the highest rates of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) in the world, primarily affecting Indigenous Australians, many living in remote areas. Treatment Tracker is a smartphone app designed to remind and encourage young people to get their regular benzathine penicillin G (BPG) injections to prevent recurrences of ARF.
ARF is caused by an autoimmune response to a group A streptococcal infection. Recurrent episodes of ARF can lead to heart valve damage known as RHD. RHD is a chronic, often fatal, disease. The regular administration of BPG, known as secondary prophylaxis, is the proven strategy to prevent ARF. Injections must be given at least every 28 days for 10 years or until the person is 21 years old – whichever is longer. A missed injection leaves them risk of repeat episodes of ARF and further heart damage.
RHDAustralia developed the Treatment Tracker app to support young people, most at risk and facing multiple challenges in sticking to their treatment. This paper discusses how the app is designed to motivate people to get their injections and discusses some of the challenges in development specifically in relation to the nature of the treatment regimen; equity and access to technology; reaching and engaging the target audience; and, with still limited evidence of the effectiveness of eHealth technology to improve medication adherence, the importance and challenge of evaluation.
Catherine Halkon is Projects Manager at RHDAustralia, the National Coordination Unit for the Australian Government Rheumatic Fever Strategy, based at Menzies School of Health Research. Catherine he works on the development and implementation of education and training projects and is involved in the operational and strategic management of the project. Catherine has a Masters of International Management and extensive experience in not-for-profit management and research management. Before joining RHDAustralia in 2012, she worked on a number of Indigenous education and training research projects in the Northern Territory, including the management of a large scale literacy intervention project.