Category Archives: Epidemiology
Audrey Dorélien, PhD, is a 2012-2014 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholar studying demography, infectious diseases, and maternal and child health.
Reoccurring outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases are a major killer of children, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2012, more than 226,000 cases of measles were reported worldwide, with a little less than half of those in Africa. For the World Health Organization to meet its global measles eradication goal and implement more effective supplemental vaccination programs, public health officials will need a better understanding of the mechanism driving seasonal and episodic outbreaks.
Infectious disease ecologists have demonstrated the importance of human demography, and in particular the influence of the birth rate on the dynamics of acute childhood immunizing (ACI) diseases. For instance in London, in the few years prior to 1950, the city experienced annual measles epidemics, but the dynamics changed to biennial epidemics as a result of a decline in the birth rate between 1950 and 1968. How can the birth rate influence disease outbreaks? An outbreak can only occur when the fraction of the susceptible population exceeds a critical threshold. In the case of ACI disease, the majority of the susceptible population are young children; therefore the birth rate influences the rate at which the pool of susceptibles is replenished.
David Van Sickle, Ph.D., is a former epidemic intelligence service officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a 2006 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
This past June, I had the honor of being named one of 17 “Champions of Change” by the White House, in recognition of my work marrying emerging technologies to health care.
According to WhiteHouse.gov, “The Obama administration established the Champions of Change award to recognize and encourage ‘everyday heroes’ working to better their communities through hard work and creative solutions.” Many of these folks – such as awardee Todd Park, chief technology officer at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – now occupy key roles in government where they are sparking new companies and revolutionizing industrial ecosystems in part by using whole new approaches to data.
As readers of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Human Capital Web site may recall, my work to develop a GPS-enabled asthma inhaler caught the attention of the Administration early last year, and I was invited to make a presentation at a Community Health Data Forum sponsored by HHS. The forum was an outgrowth of President Obama’s Community Health Data Initiative, which is focused on making HHS health data available so that software developers and others can put it to innovative and constructive use.
The idea behind the inhaler is to capture valuable data about asthma from daily life, by putting GPS technology to work tracking precisely when and where patients use their inhalers. That’s useful information to patients, because it means they can provide their physicians with the kinds of specifics that generally don’t make it into pen-and-paper logs – often because patients forget to keep track and instead fill them out days or weeks later, in the parking lot of their doctors’ offices, for example! But the device also has public health implications, because when we can identify patterns in asthma incidents, we can sometimes identify and then do something about environmental factors that cause them.
Asthmapolis, the company I formed to bring this to market, is gearing up to manufacture the first commercial version of the sensor and is busy hiring. We're up to six employees now and looking to hire two or three more. Our staff will help educate users and public health officials on the use of the product, design marketing materials, write related apps and more. It’s an exciting time in the life of the company, and it’s been an education moving along the path from idea to prototype to device and eventually to a marketable product. This fall we will launch in major health systems in three states.
The Economist featured a story about Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholar David Van Sickle, Ph.D., who created an asthma inhaler equipped with a global positioning system (GPS) device. Every time the inhaler is used, it records the location, date and time, which can help track trends that will help public health professionals help asthma sufferers. Read The Economist story. Learn more about Van Sickle’s work.
Zachary F. Meisel, M.D., an emergency physician and RWJF Clinical Scholar, co-authored a column on TIME.com about whether emergency departments should turn away non-urgent patients. “The fact is that nobody knows if they are having an emergency when they go in” to the emergency department, they write. “We all need to recognize the value of figuring it out, explaining what the problem is and providing reassurance, and the convenience of being open all the time.” Read the column.
Utah is one of the states chosen to host a Regional Action Coalition (RAC), to implement the findings of the Institute of Medicine Future of Nursing report. Read the Salt Lake Tribune editorial, co-authored by Susan Hassmiler, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., RWJF senior advisor for nursing, on nurses’ role in health reform. Learn more about RACs and the Future of Nursing report.