New digital platform in India uses social media to track vector-borne diseases

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The Institution of Engineering and Technology, a professional engineering institution, has launched a digital platform that tracks vector-borne diseases in India.

Called Social Analytics for Rapid Transformation in Health for India (SARTHI), the platform uses publicly available data to track mentions of dengue fever, malaria and chikungunya.

It was developed in partnership with Siemens Healthineers India, the Center for Health Research and Innovation and the Paris-based IT company Capgemini.

HOW IT WORKS

SARTHI takes publicly available information from digital channels such as online news broadcasts, forums, blogs, and social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to review and track mentions of the aforementioned diseases. It examines this granular data to trace and trace back to neighborhoods and streets.

The platform offers different ways to present the data: map view, trend view and table view with advanced filters. It also displays macro and micro level information about each monitored disease.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT

The SARTHI project supports the Indian government in its national disease surveillance efforts. Funded by the Siemens Healthineers India CSR project, the initiative lays the groundwork for the creation of an epidemic forecasting model.

It started with the realization of a “significant” volume of non-personal data available through online open source platforms, which can be used as indicators of diseases. “Using user-generated data available in the public domain, targeted analytics and accurate forecasting can be done to avert outbreaks in the country,” the IET said.

THE GREAT TREND

India’s $78 million national disease surveillance program currently runs on decentralized laboratory data. The IET noted that the program still has potential for improvement through real-time surveillance and outbreak forecasting.

Last year, the Ministry of Health and Family launched an improved version of the Integrated Health Information Platform, which now provides real-time consolidated data from public and private healthcare facilities. It can also track 33 diseases today out of the previous 18.

REGISTRATION

“Through this project, we hope to help the Indian government in its disease prevention and control efforts. The project has potential for nationwide application, and it also helps India achieve [its] Sustainable Development Goals of good health and well-being and reduced inequalities,” said Shekhar Sanyal, Director and Country Head of IET India.

The SARTHI prototype is just the start, said Dr. Vikram Venkateswaran of the IET Future Tech Panel’s Healthcare Working Group. He said the partnership will also develop a predictive model that will help the country “proactively shift health resources and infrastructure to respond to the outbreak.”

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