Online Signals for Risk Factors of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

PARTNERS: WHO Regional Office for Europe, Pulse Lab New York


LAB: New York


Global Pulse is collaborating with the World Health Organization (WHO) exploring how risk factors (e.g., tobacco, alcohol, diet and physical activity) of non-communicable diseases (e.g., cancer, diabetes, depression) could be inferred from big data sources as social media and online internet searches. 70% of the reduction in coronary mortality can be attributed to population level reductions in the risk factors. Traditionally, monitoring of NCD risk has been conducted by cross-sectional surveys of the population which are costly and time-consuming, providing only a snapshot at a point in time. Big data sources as social media could provide faster and cheaper information on risks on an ongoing basis. In an exploration project together with Microsoft Research, indices for each risk factor were built and tracked over time on Twitter data and internet search traffic for keywords such as 'stop smoking' were also analyzed. This project and a broader perspective of the potential of Big Data for NCDs was explored at a WHO technical conference held in Tallinn, Estonia in September 2013, and a research report for public dissemination is in development.