Published on March 21st, 2013 | by EJC1
Featured Tool: HealthMap
1) In a nutshell:
- Tool: HealthMap is a map used to monitor epidemic outbreaks and health information across the globe. The map is run by a team at Boston’s Children’s Hospital.
- Information: Disease patterns and locations, number of cases, alerts and outbreak warnings are all featured on the map. The tool also includes information on disease symptoms, as well as datasets on animal and environmental health.
- Data: Data is extracted from disparate open sources; eyewitness reports, online news aggregators and validated official reports. Sources include the World Health Organisation, the World Organisation for Animal Health, the Food and Agriculture Organization (UN) and others.
- Technology: Through an automated process, data is analysed every hour. Disease and location patterns are then retracted from the set.
- Accessibility: The HealthMap is available online as well as on mobile devices, such as Android and iPhone. HealthMap also created the Outbreaks Near Me application, which provides the latest alerts of outbreaks and infectious disease. Additionally, there is Flu Near You, which keeps track of the spread of the influenza virus by asking participants to fill out regular health surveys. The Vaccine Finder is also featured and can be added to your website as a widget.
2) Case study:
In collaboration with Ushahidi, HealthMap tracked health information and alerts in Haïti following the disaster. It monitored news feeds in seven languages. The map eventually included layers indicating safe water points and (new) health facilities, as well as information on cholera outbreaks. HealthMap still updates relevant alerts or news feeds with new data.
3) Media use:
With schools starting, many media outlets have recently focused on flu outbreaks in the classroom. Several outlets make mention of the tools provided by HealthMap, especially the Flu Near You application. See for instance this article by Voice of America.
HealthMap provides several concrete solutions and tools for media outlets. The Vaccine Finder can be added to your own website as a widget. Users and creators of maps can also share them, making use of Quick View.
4) What is in it for journalists?
- HealthMap is updated in almost real time
- The data is verified and aggregated by a team of researchers and software developers at Boston’s Children’s Hospital.
- The original data is derived from official organisations.
- The maps allow for detailed search functions, looking at specific diseases, locations or number of cases.
- The data goes back as far as 2008, allowing HealthMap to provide insight into background and outbreak trends of diseases.
- HealthMap doesn’t only come in easy to detect trends in certain areas, but can also be used as a tool to prepare for the health hazard/situation of a travel/work/reporting destination.