War-torn populations are often hard to screen for mental health disorders. Classical data collection approaches, such as paper-based, online, or SMS-operated, are either infeasible or lack accuracy due to a variety of challenges associated with dynamics and consequences of war.In this paper, we introduce a novel approach for accurate and fast screening using free open-source software, Open Data Kit (ODK) mobile application. This approach was developed by the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF) to assess the mental health symptoms of 986 Palestinian children (age 6-18) in the aftermath of Israel's Operation Protective Edge (OPE) in 2014. The organization developed assessment questionnaires and trained local field workers on the use of the mobile application, and on recruiting and interviewing war victims.War-affected children were found to suffer from several alarming symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and somatic symptoms. Children with highest number of psychological symptoms were referred for further evaluation and treatment.The use of ODK mobile technologies facilitated efficient screening of affected children in war zones. The offline data collection capability was crucial for handling the difficult conditions associated with war-torn areas, enabling timely intervention for urgent cases. Further applications of the novel mobile technology are to be explored.
View details for PubMedID 27815623