tracking the spread of COVID-19

The news of Coronavirus skyrocketing in China peaked during the month of January. At this time, the virus seemed so far away from our reality. Quickly, the virus has spread across the world. The testing for COVID-19 has become more advanced by the week and every day we see hundreds if not thousands more confirmed cases. Track the spread of COVID-19 here.

What can we do to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

As a healthy young individual, the most effective thing you can do is stay home and prevent the spread of this potentially deadly virus. Each citizen plays a large role in spreading the virus to others. The American population who are elderly or immunocompromised are at a higher risk for developing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. Because of this, ALL citizens are at risk of spreading the virus and should take the quarantine seriously.

The CDC’s guidelines for how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are conservative at this point. Wash your hands frequently and stay away from densely populated areas. This includes restaurants, bars, and stores. To bolster the prevention of the virus, counties in the San Francisco Bay area have placed a “shelter in place” order. Preventative measures like this will likely spread to other large cities in the coming days.

An important resource to note is the CDC’s guidelines for assessing risk in citizens that have potential exposure to the virus. Be sure to know the signs and symptoms of the virus and utilize any local drive-thru testing centers. Many hospitals are allowing at-risk citizens to call their hotline for remote screening of COVID-19. It’s important for citizens to stay up-to-date on recent news and be prepared to stay home in the coming weeks. As the spread of COVID-19 continues to ramp up in the US, it will be important that everyone does their part.

Work from home, avoid crowded areas, and prepare to stay home for at least the next three weeks. Preventing this virus starts with each individual making a choice to change their lifestyle for the better of their communities. The reason that China was able to reduce the spreading of COVID-19 is because they were willing to effectively quarantine.

How can we track the spread of COVID-19 more effectively?

Testing in the United States is slowly climbing. But, because of limited testing kits across the country, hospitals are being sure to utilize tests on only higher-risk citizens. As of now, people who have not been in direct contact with a confirmed case of Coronavirus are considered low-risk. However, citizens living in densely populated areas with high contact should assume that they have been exposed to the virus. Even if they are not tested, low-risk citizens should take all the same precautions as high-risk individuals to decrease the spread of COVID-19.

Digital healthcare technologies have been integral in tracking COVID-19. Here is how some tech companies are helping to control the spread of the virus. cliexa has incorporated the CDC’s risk assessment guidelines into a platform that can compile data and assess the risk of each patient that is worried about their exposure. This platform provides patient-reported data on risk and symptoms to physicians. This helps healthcare professionals better manage the amount of exposure cases across the nation. We are offering free demos of this platform. You can visit our contact page to schedule a time with our team to learn about the COVID-19 screening application offered through the cliexa platform.

 

Gender Equity in Global Health

Initiating my career internationally outlined so many of my decisions over the years from academic focuses to my draw towards the connectivity that technology provides. A three-year stint in China bouncing between high volume cities and quaint villages set the tone for how I viewed the world and human capacity to be so similar despite our vast cultural differences. Years later when I headed off to finalize my Public Health Master’s practicum in Vietnam with FHI360’s Alive and Thrive program, I was still unsure of how all my interests and experiences would quite intersect.

Through this experience I was given the opportunity to work with a group of fantastic public health professionals to outline the connection between Social, Economic and Political events and how they have impacted gender equity in China, Nepal and Nicaragua using a Matched, Interrupted Time-series study. Using the Gender Gap Index, we assessed and compared how major national events have impacted these countries’ gender equity. This was measured through economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment1 as compared to a matched baseline model (matched, interrupted time-series methodology). We observed that our studied and matched countries’ gender equity trends projected as aligned until identified events occurred and caused a deviation. Overall, we found that social and political events are key to ensuring better health outcomes and more opportunities for women.2

Almost two years after we embarked on this research, I now have a new lens on how to apply this information and how health and social connectivity can be supported through the use of technology, as the Director of Product with cliexa.3 Using the knowledge and insights from this research and our multi-disciplinary team, I try to bring this understanding to work with me every day. My focus over the years has shifted from the traditional public health sector towards the impact that innovative tools can make on our own understanding of our health as well as the ability to better communicate to our care providers about key pieces of information impacting our health.

Undoubtedly the scale of my work has transitioned away from the national level toward to the individual but all with the intention of lending to that overall goal of protecting that which so clearly defines our essential right to be equal, equal in opportunity, equal in health, and equal in the ability to live our best lives.

1 https://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2018/measuring-the-global-gender-gap/

2 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/16549716.2020.1712147

3 https://www.cliexa.com/

 

Last week, over 12,000 public health professionals flocked to San Diego for the 75-degree weather, ocean views, and the most significant public health conference in the U.S, the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting and Expo. Two large buildings downtown were dedicated to housing deep dive conversations about, among other things, tobacco use, obesity, women’s health, racial inequity in health and the most cutting-edge research in the field. In reflection, I had three takeaways from the conference about the role and use of digital health in public health.

#1. Health technology and its benefits are not largely understood in its application to the public health community.

Many times, throughout the conference I found myself reiterating the value of a health platform for clinical, research or evaluation processes. Many people I spoke to had a genuine interest but weren’t sure how technology could optimize their work. In reality, many public health programs and projects are researched and evaluated using patient-reported data. Imagine digitizing that process so patients can participate through an application on their phone; imagine the impact that would have on response rates and loss-to-follow-up. Imagine the benefits of pushing routine surveys to patient’s phone instead of having to call to do scheduled evaluations. Not to mention the equitable distribution of programs and interventions across diverse populations, rural populations and those who have transportation barriers that technology can help address. In public health we operate in a world of outcomes, without being able to show outcomes we don’t see funding renewals, patient participation fades away, and programs fail. Health technology provides a way for researchers and evaluators to track outcomes in real time.

#2. UX/UI can be a major make-or-break when looking at making a tool that applies to diverse or vulnerable populations.

My first event was a meeting in a small room with other health technology professionals discussing the process that they’ve undergone to get health technology recognized as a section at APHA. In this room, we considered the impacts on research, evaluation, follow up, data visualization and overall patient experience. One of the most impactful conversations that I had was with a social worker who embraced technology as a tool for diverse or vulnerable populations. She emphasized how user interface and user experience can shape program success in diverse and vulnerable populations. She encouraged me to reach out to individuals who interact directly with the specific population when designing products to be used in public health settings. Only if the patient or client is engaged with the tool, can we see the successes or obtain accurate information for physicians, for researchers, or health program evaluators. A crucial point when considering Take Away #1, and the importance of highlighting tangible outcomes over time.

#3. There is “data overload” in public health.

This conference had some of the country’s top experts in health, with rows of poster projects, all with their own calculated data sets backing the findings that they were at APHA to present. Some will likely be published while others will remain in the researcher’s computer with little other exposure. I spoke to individuals who were collecting health data, payor data, and policy data, and all were positioning their data sets in different areas independent of each other despite their overwhelming connectivity. With the rate that new studies are conducted, data changes so quickly so even systematic reviews and meta-analyses become outdated far too quickly. There is an opportunity to leverage technology to collect a real-time outcomes database to ensure the hard work that researchers do to make correlations and identify patterns is not lost in the data black hole. Entities such as the CDC, NIH and WHO do an excellent job of collecting and displaying related data sets for public use, however the time that it takes to gather data often puts the data sets months to years behind the times. There is a significant opportunity for technology to lend to this real-time collection process.

Overall, the themes of APHA for me centered around how much opportunity there is to impact the way public health programs are research, delivered and evaluated through the use of digital health. These conversations were inspiring and exciting but also demonstrated how much we still have to do to fully optimize the work that we do in the public health field.