Google Helps Boston Children's Hospital Map COVID-19's Span
May 22, 2020 Boston Childrens Hospital, already involved with monitoring contagious diseases, was able to step up its game to track and analyze the spread of COVID-19 recently when it secured grant funding from Google's philanthropic arm and, perhaps more importantly, full-time assistance from nine of the company's data professionals.
Boston Childrens Hospital (BCH), a leading nonprofit pediatric care provider and research organization based in Boston, received a $500,000 grant from Google.org to help combat the pandemic by developing enhanced modeling and visualization and full-time assistance from nine Google Fellows, employees of the company who do full-time pro bono work for three to six months with grantees.
At BCH, the Google.org team is helping to develop tools and models to enhance the hospital's HealthMap consortium in providing real-time information about the spread of COVID-19 to policy makers and healthcare systems.
Developed in 2006, HealthMap utilizes online informal sources for disease outbreak monitoring and real-time surveillance of emerging public health threats.
The engineering, product management, and user experience design professionals from Google are helping automate the management and analysis of new data to help track disease spread. Since the partnership began in March, HealthMap expanded its work on the spread of COVID-19 to cover all continents.
HealthMap co-founder John Brownstein credited Google.org's support with enabling the organization to scale up the data curation effort alongside the rapidly evolving pandemic.
Doing so shaved months, possibly years, off the time that otherwise would have been required to map the path of the disease. Alternatively HealthMap could have staffed up to handle the additional work, but, given the constraints the pandemic has placed on health care and research organizations, finding and funding the people to do the work wasn't in the cards.
One key finding to date: A study evaluating the impact of interventions to mitigate the impact of the epidemic found that the drastic control measures implemented in China substantially mitigated the spread of COVID-19.
At the same time, the grant is helping to build additional automated systems for data entry and validation to deal with growing case reports, which will improve long-term sustainability for future outbreaks. Additionally, it is supporting efforts to Improve user experience and add new visualizations, such as age groups, travel histories, and epidemic curves, and hire additional principal investigators or graduate students/postdocs.
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