Monday, September 21, 2009

HealthMap Alerts Users of Outbreaks, Has iPhone App

HealthMap is an easy-to-navigate website we can all use to benefit everyone else's health. It was founded in 2006 using data-mining techniques to search through the Internet from sources such as "news reports, curated personal accounts, official alerts, blogs and chat rooms - to track and map infectious disease outbreaks". The HealthMap site averages 10,000 unique visits a day, including regular users from the World Health Organization, the CDC, and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and has software to alert all users of the website of outbreaks.


"We also expect to increase global coverage and identify outbreaks earlier," says HealthMap co-founder Clark Freifeld, a PhD student at the MIT Media Lab and research software developer at CHIP who calls it "grassroots, participatory epidemiology... We aim to empower citizens in the cause of public health, not only by providing ready access to real-time information, but also by encouraging them to contribute their own knowledge, expertise, and observations. In enabling participation in surveillance, we also expect to increase global coverage and identify outbreaks earlier."

HealthMap co-founder John Brownstein, PhD, assistant professor in the Boston Children's Hospital Informatics Program (CHIP)concurs, saying "We hope individuals will find the new app to be a useful source of outbreak information--locally, nationally, and globally...As people are equipped with more knowledge and awareness of infectious disease, the hope is that they will become more involved and proactive about public health."

In addition, a new iPhone application has jus been announced of a collaboration between Children's Hospital Boston and MIT's Media Lab called Outbreaks Near Me. It "builds upon the mission and proven capability of HealthMap, an online resource that collects, filters, maps and disseminates information about emerging infectious diseases, and provides a new, contextualized view of a user's specific location - pinpointing outbreaks that have been reported in the vicinity of the user and offering the opportunity to search for additional outbreak information by location or disease"[Children's Hospital, Boston]

The site carefully filters information before displaying on the website. Users can submit new data and photographs to HealthMap for use in "Oubreaks Near Me". After being approved by managers of HealthMap, the users' alerts are posted onto the map as well.

Outbreaks Near Me was developed with support from and is available at no cost for download in the iTunes App Store. For more information on Outbreaks Near Me, visit:

Thanks again to Monika for the idea.

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