“Infodemiology includes the analysis of queries from Internet search engines to predict disease outbreaks; monitoring people’s’ status updates on microblogs such as Twitter for syndromic surveillance; detecting and quantifying disparities in health information availability; identifying and monitoring of public health relevant publications on the Internet” (Eysenbach, 2009)
Internet data, especially search engine queries and social media postings, have shown promise in contributing to syndromic surveillance for several communicable diseases, including Ebola. Much has been written about the global response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, “lessons learned” have often focused on operational reasons why health systems faltered and why the humanitarian response came late, often taking donors and international aid agencies like the World Health Organisation (WHO) to task for mishandling the crisis.
A systematic review published in 2014 by Nuti and his colleagues, highlighted that in recent years, researchers have been increasingly utilising online search data for a diversity of health topics with some successful applications in the field of infectious disease surveillance, especially in countries with high Internet penetration levels (Nuti et al., 2014).
One needs only to look through YouTube, the best example of what came to be called Web 2.0 (Meikle, 2016, p. 14), to find several TED talks on spatial data and mapping. Today, I would like to share the following 2015 speech of Chris Grundy from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine about ‘opportunistic data collection’ in the field of public health.
TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks are up to eighteen-minute Internet-streamed presentations in which speakers address important topics from any discipline with the aim of “spreading ideas” (TED, 2017).
Mariéme Jamme is a Tech entrepreneur, activist and co-founder of Africa Gathering, a global platform bringing together entrepreneurs and others to share ideas about development in Africa.
In 2012 Southbank Centre launched Africa Utopia, a festival dedicated to bringing art, ideas and discussions on African politics, technology, education and trade from Africa and the African diaspora to audiences in the UK.
During the 2011 World Conference on Social Determinants of Health, the Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health was adopted. The declaration expressed a global political commitment for the implementation of a social determinants of health (SDH) approach to reduce health inequities. Social determinants of health are defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the conditions in which people are born, grow up, live, work and age. These conditions influence a person’s opportunity to be healthy, risk of illness and life expectancy. Social inequities in health – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status across groups in society – are those that result from the uneven distribution of social determinants. All of these drive health inequity – systematic disparities in health between social groups who have different levels of underlying social advantage or disadvantage such as food, shelter, clean water, sanitation, proper clothing and have limited access to medical care, education and finance.
Video: Dr Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes – use of data to visualize social determinants of health across the globe.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to address inequalities with an objective of “reaching the unreachable”. As mobile technology becomes more affordable, more powerful, and more accessible in low-income regions, it presents even more opportunity for governments to achieve these goals, even more so in public health.