Arts, Culture & Media

Google tracking global health problems

JB says HealthMap looks for information online about infectious diseases in unusual places: we comb websites every hour looking for a new outbreak and we don't really rely on traditional health measures, and instead we rely on informal data sources like chatrooms and blogs and the media, data we don't traditionally think abot as being important for health reporting. (Give me an example of a source, somebody for example in a slum in Kenya who has access to the net and give me an example of a word that he or she might type in.) They might type in something as simple as �cough� or �runny nose� or a string of words they might use to describe their illness. (So what woud that mean to you?) It could mean the flu season is about to begin, or potentially there's a new case of avian flu, or it could mean something entirely. (So what's the appropriate response?) With respect to flu, if we can validate these efforts, we can think about prevention efforts, vaccination campaigns, encouraging proper hygiene at specific times of year. This is also important for pandemic influenza, how we might pick up the first signs of a new virus outbreaking. It's important also to note that people may not have access to the web so we're thinking about other types of technology that might help fill in those gaps. One example of that is thinking about how text messaging could fill that gap.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the audio to hear it.)

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