Review of Relief Central for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Windows phones

Health workers headed into the field to work in disaster or global health contexts should plan ahead when selecting technology and health information resources to carry with them. While many health personnel and aid workers have smartphones, there are numerous issues to consider, such as content that is inaccessible due to poor internet connectivity or resources that are less relevant in a disaster setting.

One app that anyone headed to international health and relief work should consider downloading is Relief Central. Relief Central is freely available from Unbound Medicine, which makes several other medical apps.

Relief Central contains a few well-known resources: the CIA World Factbook, the CDC Yellow Book, the USAID Field Operations Guide, MEDLINE journals, and Ebola Guidelines.

You can search across the resources for keywords, such as locations or diseases (searching by drug name found no results).

70206-1 Nepal search

The CIA World Factbook is an excellent, publicly available source containing information on countries, such as one small country map, a brief history, geography, descriptions of the population and society, basic statistics about life expectancy, health services, government structure, economy, transnational issues, key organizations, and United States diplomatic contact information. Cross-links are available to the CDC Yellow Book and other resources within the app. Content can be starred to add it to the favorites section of the home screen.

All of the Factbook content appears to be available offline.

70206-2 CIA Factbook Crosslinks Liberia

Also in the Factbook are descriptions of international organizations and groups, most of which are well-established international groups such as banks or officially-sanctioned governmental groups.

You can also view countries by various rankings, such as birth rate, pipelines, refugees, sanitation facility access, etc.

70206-3 CIA Factbook refugees

The CDC Yellow Book provides health information for international travel. There is general information, such as a chapter on traveling with young children (including sections on vaccines, breastfeeding, and international adoption), as well as a chapter on health considerations for newly arrived immigrants and refugees.

The Yellow Book is probably best known for providing a breakdown of required and suggested vaccines by country. For example, if an aid worker is planning to travel to Nepal, she or he can see whether a yellow fever vaccine is required, the risk of Malaria in country, and other vaccines to consider. Crosslinks are available to other content on the app, such as the CIA World Factbook.

All of the Yellow Book content appears to be available offline.

70206-4 Nepal Vaccines

The USAID Field Operations Guide is only browseable (ie, there is no separate search box for the content). Chapters outline responsibilities and structures of USAID-sponsored work, including logistics, communications, operations, planning, and administration.

All of the Field Operations Guide content appears to be available offline.

70206-5 DART checklist

Ebola Guidelines are a fairly recent addition to Relief Central, an indication that Unbound Medicine is responsive to the current needs of health and aid workers in the field. These guidelines were compiled by the “staff and friends” of Unbound Medicine and content was sourced from the CDC, WHO and Johns Hopkins Antibiotic guide. Content is browseable through a table of contents and a topic listing. Individual pages are structured to provide information quickly and contain reference sources.

70206-6 cleaning houses

As in the other sections, Crosslinks are available as relevant and content can be favorited to streamline access.

Most content appears to be available offline; however, videos on donning protective gear are hosted online. It would be preferable to have these videos downloaded with the app so that they can be accessed in limited connection settings.

70206-7 videos

Relief News pulls RSS feeds from around the web, including from the CDC, FEMA, Red Cross, the WHO, and other relief agencies. These require connectivity to update.

The final section is MEDLINE journals. This is not a full MEDLINE / PubMed search, but rather contains the abstracts of a handful of disaster-related journals: American Journal of Disaster Medicine, the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, Disasters, Journal of Hazardous Materials, and Prehospital and Disaster Medicine.

Most journals offer just the most recent articles, with links to read the abstract (within app, no connectivity needed), or view more content online (pulls in from Unbound MEDLINE, and links to app store to switch to that app for further viewing). It is unclear whether the full text would actually be available through Unbound MEDLINE. One journal, the American Journal of Disaster Medicine, dates from 2012 and needs updating (the current issue in PubMed is 2014, which is newer, if not absolutely up to date).

70206-8 journals

Improvements would include more journal coverage in the MEDLINE journals as health personnel probably encounter more clinical situations than are covered in the limited disaster journals included in the app. Other PubMed apps we have reviewed (PubMed for Handhelds, PubMed on Tap, and Unbound MEDLINE) also all require internet connectivity, so they offer only a partial solution of being able to search PubMed abstracts when connectivity is available.

  • Price
    • The app is free.
    • Authoritative, updated sources of information
    • Most content is available offline
    • Free to individual users
  • Dislikes
    • Little to no access to clinical information that could be used for treating patients in the field
  • Overall

    Overall, this is a recommended app for any health personnel or aid workers traveling internationally. It does not take up much room on your device, and certainly much can be gained by browsing through the app en route or even in country.

  • Overall Score
  • User Interface
  • Multimedia Usage
    • N/A
  • Price
  • Real World Applicability

    This is a great tool for geographic, demographic, and health information related to international aid work. It does not offer the ability to search for journal articles or other content to answer clinical questions in the field.

  • Available for DownloadAndroidiPhoneiPadWindows