19 June 2012

Social Technology and Global Health

-Over the last year, there have been reports and data suggesting that social networking is becoming a medium with relationships to epidemics, whether non-communicable (NCD) or communicable (CD). While the data does not necessarily imply a cause-and-effect mechanism, it still means there is a relationship. Using analytic methods on such a huge traffic of texts, chats, posts and plain comments is a gargantuan task, both for the analyst, the analytic tools used, and the systems architecture as well. Here we have to mention the challenges of Big Data. Does one rely on Excel alone, or, on the growing number of apps (both Open Source or Enterprise Grade versions) flooding the market? Most of this data is unstructured. So the choice of analysis involves the right database system, the optimal algorithms, and how one makes the best use of all this information. It's not enough though to just check out the bare stats or modelling methods, but the methods should also be a driving force for decision making and intervention. It's not about looking at nice graphs but rather recommend immediate action! The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is keen on this. The WHO releases figures regularly. And so with the European consortium. A lot of data is coming from the Far East but the methods to be used take on huge figures which still have to be maximized, considering that their populations are growing exponentially. How does one tap into a large rural area where not even smartphones are standard personal appliances? Then there is the seasonal wholesale migration of the labor force which may even export more diseases outside the national boundaries.

-So, this is a call for a long good look at social technology and harness the power of Big Data with more robust analytics. Can the Business Analytic Model be a use case for Epidemiology? And how fast can we act to prevent the degradation of health systems? The Electronic Health Record (EHR) used by small to big size clinics and hospitals may not be sufficient. If one could utilize a point-of-sale method for inhabitants in a poor, rural village, then that could help. Of course, comes in health education dissemination to these areas. We're just scratching the surface here for now. We are just at the beginning of global disease tracking.

- But we hope health authorities (and Public Health Policy), clinicians, and technology personnel cooperate in greater ways to serve the global purpose.

-Fernando Yaakov Lalana, M.D.

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