Things I loved this week: #LegalEpidemiology, @HepVu, and @CDCgov's Healthy Behavior Data Challenge

Friday, May 19, 2017

Part of why I love my new gig at Cadence Group is that, in my responsibility to be informed and up-to-date on all things public health, I am constantly nerding out on new and exciting topics in my favorite fields. I had the chance to watch a webinar on one of those emerging areas - legal epidemiology - earlier this week. It's basically exactly what it sounds like: "the scientific study of law as a factor in the cause, distribution, and prevention of disease in a population." Despite its potential as a complex and fruitful area of study, there isn't much literature out there on the topic, though CDC's Public Health Law Program appears to be the best place to start). Lucky for me (and anyone else who is curious), the National Environmental Health Association is hosting a three-part webinar series on the topic this summer. The first webinar was held last week, with the recording and slides posted. The second installment is on June 14th, and the third on August 16th.



Data visualizations are one of my favorite things, a perfect marriage between my love of data and my experience leading the Communications Committee for APHA's International Health Section. Naturally this meant I got super excited when AIDSVu launched, happened just before I began working as an epidemiologist with the Texas HIV prevention program. Today I discovered that the initiative has launched a similar site, HepVu, which (as the name implies) makes hepatitis surveillance data available via interactive maps and data visualizations.




Finally, I stumbled across the Healthy Behavior Data Challenge, a call by CDC "for new ways to address the challenges and limitations of self-reported health surveillance information and tap into the potential of innovative data sources and alternative methodologies for public health surveillance":
The Healthy Behavior Data (HBD) Challenge will support the development and implementation of prototypes to use these novel methodologies and data sources (e.g., wearable devices, mobile applications, and/or social media) to enhance traditional healthy behaviors surveillance systems in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, sedentary behaviors, and/or sleep among the adult population aged 18 years and older in the US and US territories.

The collection of health data through traditional surveillance modes including telephone and in-person interviewing, however, is becoming increasingly challenging and costly with declines in participation and changes in personal communications. In addition, the self-reported nature of responses particularly in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, sedentary behaviors, and sleep has been a major limitation in these surveillance systems, since self-reported data are subject to under/over reporting and recall bias. Meanwhile, the advent of new technologies and data sources including wearable devices ( such as: smart watches, activity trackers, sleep monitors, etc.), mobile health applications on smartphones or tablets, and data from social media represents an opportunity to enhance the ability to monitor health-related information and potentially adjust for methodological limitations in traditional self-reported data.

The Healthy Behavior Data (HBD) Challenge will be conducted concurrently with a similar challenge proposed by the Public Health Agency of Canada. This will enable the two countries to learn from their respective challenges and leverage information. We expect increased efficiency with a dual challenge.
It struck me as pretty reminiscent of the Data for Climate Action challenge by UN Global Pulse.

Happy Friday!

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