Felice Freyer’s article in the Boston Globe yesterday described how the Flu Near You project is being adapted to estimate the incidence of Zika, Chikungunya, and Dengue.
“We’re testing the idea of Flu Near You being a broader surveillance system for emerging diseases,” said John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and a founder of Flu Near You. The hope, he said, is that “if Zika really starts taking hold in the US, we’d be able to track it.”
Flu Near You was created by disease trackers at Children’s, Harvard Medical School, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund. Its expansion into symptoms associated with Zika will test the fledgling science of “participatory surveillance,” in which citizens report their illnesses directly to researchers and authorities tracking the trajectory of diseases.
The reason we need Flu Near You, in my opinion, is that hospital electronic medical record (EMR) systems rarely upload data directly to state health departments and CDC. We need a single nationwide EMR. To do that will require a massive change in how our health care system is financed (i.e. replacing for-profit insurance companies with a single payer).
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