Digital methods in epidemiology can transform disease control

July 1, 2015


Background Modern society has been transformed by the digital revolution through cellular phones for communication, remote sensing of weather and other terrestrial data, cheap and plentiful digital computation and data storage, genomic sequencing and analysis, GPS for geolocation and navigation, and many other marvels.

Results: Remote sensing is already being applied to develop improved microplans for polio eradication efforts in Nigeria and these improved maps combined with GPS-enabled vaccinator tracking have helped the campaign achieve even higher coverage and performance. Remote sensing of vegetation indices is explored for its ability to improve the linking of poverty, environment and health outcomes, thereby facilitating improved mapping of need and targeting of pro-poor interventions.5 Multiple modern methods for mapping population movement are demonstrated and compared in the paper by Bharti et al., including remote sensing of nighttime lights and analysis of cell phone call data records. This capability for mapping population movements is especially critical during times of crisis, such as the Ebola outbreak, and it is also useful in planning malaria elimination.

Conclusions: Advances in computing have allowed mathematical models of appropriate complexity to be applied to open questions in epidemiology and disease control. Mathematical models can be constructed to investigate different strategies for the control and elimination of malaria using varied combinations of vector control approaches