Evidence shows that access to information during emergencies saves lives. We know from experience that prevention and promotion has historically been an important part of infection control. Engaging with communities and communicating the threat of emerging infectious diseases to them is critical for managing a public health crisis.
While the importance of community engagement and communications is well recognized, providing and procuring accurate and timely information in user-friendly and systematic ways with and from affected communities remains a chronic and continuing challenge during outbreaks. This requires an IT architecture for information management in the health system which considers the needs of communities. Too often, the flow of information tends to be top-down, whereas we know that including the voices of affected people is critical for designing effective and even predictive responses.
With the emergence of new infectious diseases, the role of communication and social mobilization has grown ever more important as an indispensable component of public health practice. International regulations, require all countries to establish and maintain effective risk communication strategies. To this end, the promise of big data is found in the growing number of examples of data partnerships (including with the private sector), that are contributing to life-saving results.
The aim of this panel is to share examples of how the use of innovative technology and data partnerships are helping engage with communities, to push out prevention messages and gather real time information for containing and getting ahead of outbreaks.
In Indonesia, the Ministry of Health used platforms like RapidPro with Social Networking Services and SMS, in the run-up to a massive measles/rubella immunization campaign in August 2017. The first round targeted some 35 million children aged 9 months to 15 years on the island of Java. The second round in 2018 will target a similar number in the remaining regions, from Aceh to Papua. Measles is a highly infectious vaccine-preventable disease, and still one of the leading causes of child mortality. Rubella is an infection that is usually mild when experienced in childhood, but it can often lead to serious and sometimes fatal complications for pregnant women.
During the recent Dengue outbreak in Viet Nam in September 2017, Ministry of Health identified the need to communicate directly with communities and quickly receive information on potential new outbreaks from the population. This requires an interoperable digital health architecture which provides actionable real-time information, at each level in the health sector and at the same time is able to combine multiple data sources. MoH is in the process of developing such architecture.
During the Ebola outbreak of 2014, UNICEF and partners identified a need to improve the quality, speed and flow of information between relevant government ministries and affected communities. This need was identified in Nigeria, where U-Report already existed, as well as in countries where it did not exist, such as Liberia and Sierra Leone. U-Report was quickly implemented and led by the community to help the government combat the disease and save many lives.
More recently, during the Zika outbreak in Brazil, Facebook pulled together anonymized insights from social media posts referring to Zika to combat its spread. With ninety per cent of Brazilians using the Facebook platform every month, the social media giant shared the results with UNICEF, which then incorporated them into a data-driven campaign, where 82 per cent of those reached took action to protect themselves against Zika and other illnesses transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The example highlights the possibilities of significant impact when using digital technology effectively to connect with communities during a crisis.
Pushing these methodologies even further UNICEF's Office of Innovation is developing an open-source platform to collect, combine, analyze, and display real-time information based on contributions from private sector data stores and other sources, to generate predictive data. This platform, with the working name Magic Box, aims to allow UNICEF and partners to obtain insights and create new research from data-sets that have not previously been combined. The Magic Box was first trialed during and after the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa. A second iteration of Magic Box was developed with Google and other partners as part of the response to the Zika virus. Working with HATIS, PAHO, CDC and WHO, UNICEF is using data on how and where people move (between countries and within them), to create risk maps against the spread of disease.
These responses demonstrate the importance of quickly engaging communities through existing technologies to generate real time information, so as to save lives and combat disease outbreaks or potentially fatal infections.
09:00 – 09:05 Introduction and objectives by a session moderator, Dr Susann Roth/ADB
09:05 - 09:15 Welcome remarks -- Karin Hulshof, UNICEF Regional Director, East Asia Pacific
09:10 – 09:40 Keynote -- Getting to Predictive Data
Mr. Christopher Fabian, co-founder of UNICEF’s Global Innovation Team; “Magic Box -- an open-source platform to collect, combine, analyze, and display real-time information based on data contributions from a range of sources including the private sector, to generate predictive data during health emergency outbreaks.”
0940 – 10:00 Q&A with keynote speaker directed by moderator, Dr Susann Roth/ADB
10:00 – 10:15 Break
10:15 – 11:30 Panel Presentation and Discussion
Moderator: Dr. Susann Roth, Senior Social Development Specialist, Asian Development Bank
1. Dr. Anonh Xeuatvongsa -- Director, National Immunization Programme, Ministry of Health, Lao PDR “Community engagement with hard-to-reach population during VDPV (vaccine derived polio virus) outbreak, using SMS/voice mail technology.”
2. Ms Thu Thuy Pham -- Information and Technology Expert, General Department of Preventive Medicine, Ministry of Health, Viet Nam – ”Enabling a complete-patient and public health picture to better ensure outbreaks don't happen through Health Information Exchange (HIE)”. Outlining a system strengthening approach towards improved reporting and surveillance, lowered costs, reduced health worker burden and better quality data.
3. Mr. Amnat Khamsiriwatchara, CEO, BIOPHICS, Center of Excellency for Biomedical and Public Health Informatics Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University. “Surveillance System Development- a role of the centre of excellence for biomedical and public health for reaching the public with integrity and quality health informatics.”
4. Indonesia: “Real-time monitoring by Rapid Pro and its lessons learned in Measles and Rubella vaccination campaign targeting over 30 million children in Indonesia.”
11:30 – 12:20 Open Q&A for participants with panelists, including targeted interventions from:
Ms. Kym Blechynden, Regional Emergency Health Coordinator, Asia Pacific International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Asia Pacific Regional Office.
Mr. Mark Landry -- Regional Advisor South East Asia, WHO (New Delhi) Health Situation and Trend Assessment, Department of Health Systems Development – taking a systematic approach to data through systems strengthening that can help contain epidemics before they start, in partnership with ADB, AeHin and UNICEF.
12:20 – 12:30
Concluding remarks by Dr Susann Roth, ADB