The Flu Near You project, a collaboration between the Skoll Global Threats Fund and HealthMap of Boston Children’s Hospital, recently published data from the disease tracking system that has now been in operation for over 3 1/2 years. Flu Near You collects limited demographic characteristic information upon registration and prompts users each Monday to report symptoms of influenza-like illness (ILI) experienced during the previous week. With increased participation, FNY has the potential to serve as a viable complement to existing outpatient, hospital-based, and laboratory surveillance systems.
The team summarized Flu Near You data from the 2012–2013 and 2013–2014 influenza seasons in the United States, calculating the descriptive statistics and rates of ILI for both seasons. Raw and noise-filtered ILI rates from Flu Near You were compared with ILI rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ILINet surveillance system. More than 61,000 participants submitted at least one report during the 2012–2013 season, totaling 327,773 reports. Nearly 40,000 participants submitted at least one report during the 2013–2014 season, totaling 336,933 reports. Rates of ILI as reported by Flu Near You tracked closely with ILINet in both timing and magnitude.
Although many established systems have the benefits of specificity and credibility, participatory systems offer advantages in speed, sensitivity, and scalability. Additional analyses to examine the most recent 2014-2015 influenza season are underway and the Flu Near You team is working with partners at health agencies around the United States to encourage the use of Flu Near You data to augment existing public health surveillance data. You can read more in this just published piece in the American Journal of Public Health here.
We live in an increasingly interconnected, interdependent, and complex world where the rapid exchange of goods, information, and ideas has brought opportunities and prosperity to many. Yet this increased interconnectivity has also given rise to a heightened vulnerability to systemic risks.
Skoll Global Threats Fund is partnering with Innocentive in a challenge to identify early indications of when a water or climatic event in one location, such as a flood, drought, or heatwave, may trigger direct and indirect impacts elsewhere in the world (for example: large scale migration, food insecurity, social unrest, infectious disease). This challenge: “What are the ways in which we can identify early indications and/or patterns of complex events that can have triggering effects elsewhere in the world?” This project aims to contribute to an emerging field of big data and forecasting, and the proposed methodology would ideally allow for near-real time monitoring and a method for triggering alerts when early indications are identified.
We encourage you to look at the challenge and share widely within your networks.
We, along with our partners OpenDream, Epitrack, and InSTEDD, are hosting an EpiHack in Rio to explore the potential for participatory disease surveillance at mass gatherings. By letting people report on their own symptoms, can we get a better handle on disease outbreaks at big events like the World Cup, music festivals, the Olympics and more? We helped support a pilot project for mass gathering surveillance for the World Cup in Brazil last year. This week in Rio, hackers and public health officials from 11 countries around the world will work to develop concepts and, potentially, a prototype application for participatory surveillance for mass gatherings generally. You can track developments via the hashtag #hackforhealth, or following our partners twitter feeds at @epitrack, @opendream, @instedd, or @epihack.
In April, Nepal experienced a devastating earthquake and series of aftershocks that left more than 8,500 people killed and 20,000 injured. A number of Skoll Global Threats Fund grantees and partners are based in Nepal – they and their immediate families thankfully emerged safe. As the country transitions from immediate response towards medium and long-term recovery efforts, Skoll Global Threats Fund is providing support for our partners’ activities:
Following the earthquake of April 25, The Asia Foundation, in collaboration with 44 local NGOs and organizations, provided rapid emergency relief and assessment. Rapid, catalytic grants and relief materials have been provided to address emergency needs of over 20,000 survivors. Now entering the fifth week of post-quake assistance, The Asia Foundation has begun transitioning from relief to recovery, working closely with Nepali partners to support longer-term rebuilding efforts: providing legal, dispute resolution, psychosocial, protection and education support services for marginalized/vulnerable communities; collaborating with village and municipal groups to assess and manage local dissatisfaction surrounding relief efforts; and conducting relief impact assessments and public perception surveys to track the public mood, as well as other social and relief-related issues.
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is drawing on its technical expertise to create a Task Force on Geo-hazards to assess the impact of geophysical hazards like landslides and avalanches, and monitor potential hazards, including glacial lake outbursts, rivers blocked by landslides, and the threat of landslides in areas where slopes have been destabilized by the earthquake. These studies provide relevant information to government agencies, relief groups, development organizations, and the global community.
Internews/Third Pole Project is working with local radio and media organizations to ensure information is coordinated and reaches all affected communities. Additionally, they are working to consolidate relevant data on locations of affected populations and high damage, map radio stations (affected and non affected), identify areas vulnerable to landslides, and track road blockages for teams doing assessment and response. Such information helps response teams make informed decisions. This information has been placed in an interactive web platform and is publically accessible.
We’re happy to be supporting, along with our partner HealthMap, a third digital disease detection conference in Florence, Italy, May 21-22. From the event site prepared by HealthMap:
The ability to rapidly recognize and respond to both global and local health threats remains a critical public health priority. The ever-growing digital world represents an unprecedented opportunity to harvest for new solutions and tools to face these emergencies. This digital means of disease detection has been made possible by the growing influence of Internet technology, which has significantly changed the landscape of public health surveillance and epidemic intelligence gathering.
Disease and outbreak data is now disseminated not only through formal online announcements by government agencies, but also through other informal digital channels such as social networking sites, blogs, chat rooms, Web searches, local news media, crowdsourcing platforms.
These informal data streams have been credited with decreasing the time between an outbreak and formal recognition of an outbreak, allowing for an expedited response to the public health threat.
The very recent addition of data from smart wearable body sensors for health self-assessment allows also to collect health-related data from the general public on a broader perspective not necessarily disease-related.
Collectively, these online sources create an image of global public health that is fundamentally different from the one produced by traditional public health surveillance infrastructure. As these sources become more widely used and relied upon, it is imperative that health professionals collaborate to demonstrate and improve the effectiveness of these sources. We must identify strengths and weaknesses that can be capitalized upon and remedied.
The intention of the Third International Digital Disease Detection Conference is to connect innovators in health and technology to 1) continue to define this emerging field; 2) explore novel data streams and new technologies; 3) host workshops to identify and discuss strengths and weaknesses in surveillance methods, and to promote critique and development of already existing surveillance and diagnostic tools.
Should be a great event. Follow #DDD3 on Twitter for updates.
We’re co-hosting today with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and USAID an Ebola Innovation Summit, aimed at both getting to zero cases in the current West African outbreak, as well as learning lessons from the current crisis to better prepare for the next infectious disease outbreak. You can find more details here. Follow it on social media via the hashtags #TackleEbola and #Innovate4Ebola.
The final session of the six-part Reinventing Nuclear Security series, an initiative of N Square, which we support, focuses on envisioning a world in which nuclear weapons no longer play a role. You can watch a recap of that session below. It includes an interesting mix of futurists, faith leaders, and advocates. Worth watching. Plus, you can review recap videos of all six sessions (or watch the full 90-minute roundtables) from the series main page here.
The 2015 Skoll World Forum kicked off in Oxford tonight with a great “In Conversation With” Jeff Skoll and a panel featuring Archbishop Desmond Tutu, his daughter Mpho, Zak Ebrahim, and Ophelia Dahl talking about belief and what keeps them motivated in their social change work. The Forum continues tomorrow and Friday, with live streaming options throughout. You can check out the live stream here and follow events on Twitter with hashtag #skollwf. Hope you can check it out!
Ted-Ed has created a fun and informative short video on how to eradicate a disease, looking at the experience of the smallpox program, which our Senior Advisor and former President, Larry Brilliant, was a key part of in the 1970s. It helps explain why other infectious diseases, like HIV, are trickier, and how close we are on polio.