HEALTHMAP: INTERNET-BASED EMERGING INFECTIOUS DISEASE INTELLIGENCE

John S. Brownstein, Ph.D.11

Harvard Medical School


Clark C. Freifeld, B.S.12

Children’s Hospital Boston


Ben Y. Reis, Ph.D.13

Children’s Hospital Boston


Kenneth D. Mandl, M.D., M.P.H.14

Children’s Hospital Boston


Although many developed countries are strengthening their traditional clinically based surveillance capacities, the required health information infrastructure is lacking in parts of the world that may be most vulnerable to emerging health threats. At the same time, an enormous amount of information providing situational awareness about infectious diseases is found in web-accessible information sources, such as Internet-based discussion sites, disease reporting networks, news outlets, and blogs. These data also exemplify unprecedented potential for increasing public awareness on public health issues prior to their widespread recognition. Despite the growing use of these unstructured information sources for monitoring emerging infectious diseases, there has been little, if any, formal evaluation of their utility, accuracy, coverage, or timeliness. Building on established evaluation approaches for public health surveillance systems, we present a surveillance framework that defines important challenges and critical research questions that define a research agenda. The framework is informed by evaluation of the performance of HealthMap, a freely accessible, automated system for real-time monitoring of online information about emerging diseases. This chapter highlights the value of a robust research agenda, continued organic evolution of existing and new technologies, and scrutiny through a rigorous evaluation framework to help ensure that the global public health enterprise maximally leverages

11

Instructor, Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Children’s Hospital Boston, 1 Autumn St, Room 541, Boston, MA 02215. Phone: 617-355-6998. Fax: 617-730-0267. E-mail: john_brownstein@harvard.edu.

12

Research Software Developer, Children’s Hospital Informatics Program at the Harvard–MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Children’s Hospital Boston, 300 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA 02115.

13

Instructor, Children’s Hospital Informatics Program at the Harvard–MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Children’s Hospital Boston, 300 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA 02115.

14

Associate Professor, Children’s Hospital Informatics Program at the Harvard–MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Children’s Hospital Boston, 300 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA 02115.



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