World Health Day: 5 ‘Big Data for Public Health’ Projects

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On 7th April, the world celebrates World Health Day, a day that draws worldwide attention to the importance of good health. Global Pulse is working on leveraging big data for public health through projects initiated in collaboration with our partners across the network of Pulse Labs in New York, Jakarta and Kampala. 

Here is a collection of 5 projects from our Pulse Labs in celebration of World Health Day 2016:

SPOTLIGHT: Using data analytics to fight disease outbreaks in Uganda  

Pulse Lab Kampala is developing an interactive data analysis and visualization tool that analyzes dynamic information from Uganda’s Ministry of Health databases in response to outbreaks of diseases, such as typhoid and malaria. 

The tool builds on the success of a project launched to support response to the typhoid outbreak of 2015 and is under development to include analysis of other diseases. It is being developed under the leadership of Uganda’s Ministry of Health and in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).  

The tool analyses data collected centrally by the ministry's Health Management Information System (HMIS) from health centres across the country and produces data visualizations which incorporate information on risk factors such as rainfall data, population density or population mobility. However, not all health centers in Uganda report weekly on the number of disease cases, which can lead to misleading information. The tool uses big data analytics to correct the missing data and produce a more accurate estimate of the number of infections. 

The expected impact is the potential to assist policymakers track the increase of infections in different areas of the country in near real-time, and thus enable faster, more coordinated response to new outbreaks. The tool is built as an application that will be incorporated into the DHIS2 open software database used by Ministry of Health. As many countries in the region use the same database, the project has great potential to be scaled up.

The tool development is still ongoing, but it has already been used to support the response to the typhoid outbreak in 2015. Typhoid, a water-borne disease spread mainly through eating of contaminated food and drinking of water, ravaged the central business district in Kampala in early 2015. 

Simulations have been tested in relation to cholera and malaria. In Uganda, malaria is one of the leading causes of death, resulting in up to 100.000 people dying from the disease every year. Children and pregnant women are amongst the most vulnerable to the infection.

Access the tool at: 

Big Data For Public Health Using SOCIAL MEDIA

What people say publicly online, through Twitter and Facebook messages or YouTube videos, can be analyzed to understand what they think and how they feel, and how that is changing over time. 

  • Analyzing Attitudes Towards Contraception & Teenage Pregnancy Using Social Data: This study, done in collaboration with UNFPA, analyzed public Facebook data to gain real-time awareness of changing trends in attitudes about contraception methods and family planning discourse among Ugandans. (Project webpage
  • Analysing Social Media Conversations to Understand Public Perceptions of Sanitation: This study produced a baseline of Twitter activity on topics related to sanitation. Findings revealed a large proportion of conversations related to cholera and increasing public engagement around gender issues and its intersection with sanitation. It was completed in collaboration with the UN Millennium Campaign and WSSCC. (Project webpage
  • Understanding Immunisation Awareness and Sentiment through Analysis of Social Media and News Content: This multi-country study analyzed perceptions about immunization from multiple social media channels and news sources in India, Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan. The project shows how methods including sentiment analysis, topic classification and network analysis can be used to support public health workers and communication campaigns. (Project webpage
  • Understanding Public Perceptions of Immunisation Using Social Media: This project extracted and analyzed tweets related to vaccines and immunization in Indonesia. Findings included the identification of perception trends including concerns around religious issues, disease outbreaks, side effects and the launch of a new vaccine. Global Pulse worked with the Ministry of Development Planning and the Ministry of Health in Indonesia, UNICEF, and WHO to complete this project. (Project webpage


World Health Day 2016: DIABETES

This year’s World Health Day theme focuses on ways to halt the rise of diabetes, a condition that affects more than 9% of the world’s adult population and that is estimated to become the 7th cause of death by 2030.  

Here are three interesting articles that take a look at how big data analytics can help fight #diabetes:


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News, thoughts and ideas about big data and AI, data privacy and ethics from across the Pulse Lab Network. Read more on the blog.

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