Around a hundred representatives of 12 sub-Saharan African countries (dermatologists, doctors and heads of non-profit organisations) attended the second African Teledermatology Conference hosted in Lomé by the Fondation Pierre Fabre and the Société Togolaise de Dermatologie.
Modelled on the first conference hosted in Mali two years ago, the 2019 African Teledermatology Conference took place in Lomé, Togo on 26 and 27 June. Its aim was to support the development of remote dermatology on a continent where skin diseases are often poorly diagnosed and inadequately treated.
The meeting was organised jointly by Fondation Pierre Fabre and SOTODERM (The Togolese Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Infections Society) under the kind patronage of Professor M. Mijiyawa, the Togolese Minister for Public Health and Hygiene, and attended by the French Ambassador to Togo Marc Vizy.
Addressing the shortage of dermatologists in sub-Saharan Africa
A survey conducted among dermatologists in 12 sub-Saharan African countries last year showed a population per dermatologist of between 267,000 (in Senegal) to 3.7 million (in the Democratic Republic of Congo). Against such a background, the management and treatment of skin diseases, and especially complicated cases, remain a very real challenge. For the past four years, Fondation Pierre Fabre has supported the development of Teledermali, a remote diagnostic programme to make up for the shortage of dermatologists and supported by the dermatology referrals department of CNAM (the National Centre for Disease Control) in Bamako headed by Professor Ousmane Faye. Still expanding geographically, the programme currently includes 67 community health centres in Mali, within which 91 health workers have already been trained in managing and treating the most common skin conditions. Those patients presenting the most complex cases can receive remote diagnosis by a specialist via the ‘Bogou’ secure digital interaction platform developed by RAFT (the Telemedicine Network for French-Speaking Africa). Using this system, more than 1,000 complex cases have been diagnosed since the programme was launched in 2015.
Initiatives with high replication potential:
Building on the success of Teledermali, Fondation Pierre Fabre is now supporting the development of two similar programmes in Togo and Mauritania.
– In Togo, the project led by SOTODERM is built around training 100 healthcare providers (doctors and nurses) from 50 health facilities to improve their dermatological expertise in four of the country’s five regions. The programme uses the same technology as the Malian project to transfer complex clinical cases to experts based in Lomé and Kara.
– In Mauritania, the project led by the Société Mauritanienne de Dermatologie is targeting the establishment of 12 consultation units with 24 staff working collaboratively with 8 expert dermatologists based in Nouakchott. Mauritania, which is affected particularly badly by the shortage of dermatologists, has 13 specialists for every 4 million people spread very thinly over an enormous country that is very challenging to cover adequately. The programme will provide local people in 3 regions with dermatological care, with the ultimate target of treating 300 patients per month. These regions have been selected for their high prevalence of common dermatoses.
A meeting focused on two key topics
After reviewing the progress made by these 3 projects, dermatologists and medical facility managers from 10 countries discussed:
The training of local staff and dermatologists, which requires the transfer of skills for the former and the introduction of specialist training courses for the latter. The Foundation also presented the results of its 2018 survey conducted to identify the priority issues in this sub-region: the prevention and management of skin cancers for albinism sufferers, accompanied by presentations outlining projects supported by the Foundation in Mali, Tanzania and Malawi. ANAT (the Togolese National Albinism Association), SOTODERM and Fondation Pierre Fabre used the event as an opportunity to announce the official launch of a similar programme in Togo. The Foundation also brought forward a protocol for the formulation and quality control of optimised SPF 50+ sunscreen creams, which is free to use for those leading and implementing projects to prevent skin diseases in albinism patients and increase their level of protection against sun-related risks. Students from the Lomé Faculty of Pharmacy will conduct compliance inspection testing of the cream as part of the practical trials.
The development of teledermatology and the provision of support for albinism patients are the two main areas of dermatology targeted by the Foundation for its support.