For the last three years we’ve been covering HealthMap, an online tool that tracks the spread of infectious disease, as reported from a number of credible sources (see flashbacks below). Now researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab have combined the resources of HealthMap with the networking and geolocation abilities of the iPhone to create a portable application that can keep you aware of disease outbreaks around you. The app will even raise an alarm when it realizes you, for example, entered an area with a high rate of recent reports of H1N1.
The new application also features an option for users to submit an outbreak report. This will enable individuals in cities and countries around the world to interact with the HealthMap team and participate in the public health surveillance process. Users may take photos – of situations and scenarios of, and/or leading to, disease – with their iPhone and submit them to the HealthMap system for review and eventual posting as an alert on the worldwide map.
“This is grassroots, participatory epidemiology,” says HealthMap co-founder Clark Freifeld, a PhD student at the MIT Media Lab and research software developer at CHIP. “In releasing this app 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.”
Press release: New iPhone app “Outbreaks Near Me” locates H1N1 (swine flu), infectious diseases
Product page: Outbreaks Near Me
Flashbacks: Swine Flu As Spectator Sport; The Latest on HealthMap, an Online Disease-Mining System; BoingBoing Shamefully Ignores Valid Questions; More about User-Generated Content; HEALTHmap Global Disease Tracker