Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Early-warning system for health risks

A press release from Fraunhofer: That environmental factors affect health is neither unknown nor new. But how are the two actually connected? How can predictions be better used to avoid, for example epidemics by initiating countermeasures on time? In the EU project EO2HEAVEN researchers aimed to answer exactly those questions. The IT architecture for evaluating and correlating data was provided by Dr. Kym Watson and his team at the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB in Karlsruhe. The scientists will present the system concept at CeBIT at the Fraunhofer stand in Hall 9.

In the future, sensors, data and risk analysis should provide hospitals and health authorities with timely decision support in the event of an impending health threat. Graphics: Stefan Riel; photo: Jerzy Sawluk | pixelio.

Within this project three case studies were examined: In Dresden the relationship between air quality – measured in terms of temperature, particulate matter and ozone – and cardiovascular disease; in the South African city of Durban the relationship between air pollution in an industrial area and asthma; and in Uganda the influence of various environmental factors on cholera outbreaks. To this end the researchers at the IOSB developed a software architecture for early warning systems that correlates the environmental and health data and represents it in graphical form. “This allowed us for the first time to visualize the relationships between these factors on risk maps to create a better understanding of the complex environment-health nexus,” explains project coordinator Dr. Kym Watson.

...In the long term it is conceivable, for example, that asthmatics could create their own personal profile in an app. Kym Watson explains the principle: “Users can define the thresholds above which they haven an allergic reaction to pollen or poor air quality. The user can view his / her personal risk map that relates these thresholds to measured or forecasted environmental data. The app could even warn the user when a limit value is or is likely to be exceeded. ”....

Sometimes I'm stumped for an illustration. That's when a green dragon comes in handy. Image by  Bastianow. Version without border of coat of arms: Bedwyr., public domain

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