Quality assurance and quality control in the Global Trachoma Mapping Project
Solomon, A. W., Willis, R., Pavluck, A. L., Alemayehu, W., Bakhtiari, A., Bovill, S., Chu, B. K., Courtright, P., Dejene, M., Downs, P., Flueckiger, R. M., Haddad, D., Hooper, P. J., Kalua, K., Kebede, B., Kello, A. B., Macleod, C. K., McCullagh, S., Millar, T., ... Foster, A. (2018). Quality assurance and quality control in the Global Trachoma Mapping Project. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 99(4), 858-863. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.18-0082
In collaboration with the health ministries that we serve and other partners, we set out to complete the multiple-country Global Trachoma Mapping Project. To maximize the accuracy and reliability of its outputs, we needed in-built, practical mechanisms for quality assurance and quality control. This article describes how those mechanisms were created and deployed. Using expert opinion, computer simulation, working groups, field trials, progressively accumulated in-project experience, and external evaluations, we developed 1) criteria for where and where not to undertake population-based prevalence surveys for trachoma; 2) three iterations of a standardized training and certification system for field teams; 3) a customized Android phone-based data collection app; 4) comprehensive support systems; and 5) a secure end-to-end pipeline for data upload, storage, cleaning by objective data managers, analysis, health ministry review and approval, and online display. We are now supporting peer-reviewed publication. Our experience shows that it is possible to quality control and quality assure prevalence surveys in such a way as to maximize comparability of prevalence estimates between countries and permit high-speed, high-fidelity data processing and storage, while protecting the interests of health ministries.