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.
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.
For example, cholera in Uganda
This bacterial disease is transmitted mainly through water. Using sensors the project partners measure environmental parameters, such as rainfall, sunlight, pH value, temperature and nutrient concentrations in the water. They also included weather and climate forecasts in their analysis. On the other hand, the researchers recorded cholera-related health data from hospitals and physicians’ practices with mobile applications: What are the symptoms? Where has the patient been, etc.? This data is anonymized and transferred to a central server at the health authority in the capital. With the new software, the cases can now, for the first time, be shown as red dots on a digital map, illustrating their spatial and temporal correlation with the environmental data. This allows decision-makers to make better use of the resources in the affected areas and warn hospitals and doctors in advance.
The visualization has helped officials in Uganda to become fully aware of the significance of cholera outbreaks. Previously, individual cases had been recorded only in lists on paper. Hospitals and physicians can now prepare reports effectively and more rapidly. Scientists, too, have recognized the benefits of this solution: it saves them the effort of entering data manually and integrating it into their models for correlation analysis.
Citizens also benefit
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. ”
But it is not quite that simple.
Firstly, it is difficult, especially in Germany, to obtain the required health data from the health insurance companies because these are, of course, strictly confidential. It is therefore important to process these data anonymously to ensure data protection, which presents a challenge. On the other hand, it is not always easy to implement the right measures required in the light of the interactions between the environment, people and socio-economic factors. Our IT solution provides “only” a tool for further decision-making. Whether cholera outbreaks can actually be contained, depends mainly on the actions taken, the quality of drinking water, hygiene, and available medical resources.
The researchers are implementing the cholera early warning system in collaboration with the World Health Organization WHO and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA. Kym Watson says: “We are currently still looking for sponsors and funding sources. It will probably take another two to five years until the solution is systematically used by decision-makers and scientists.”
The scientists will present the system at CeBIT at the Fraunhofer stand in Hall 9.
For further information about the project visit:
Coordinator: Fraunhofer IOSB
Project partners: Ten from the EU and three from Africa
Budget: about € 8.7 million, EU funding: about € 6.3 million
Dipl.-Ing. Sibylle Wirth | Fraunhofer-Institut
Fraunhofer IBMT presents Ultrasound Technology and Mobile Lab Technologies at IAA 2015
26.08.2015 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Biomedizinische Technik IBMT
The Expo Presents: Wellness for Dairy Cows
11.08.2015 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...
A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...
In mountainous regions earthquakes often cause strong landslides, which can be exacerbated by heavy rain. However, after an initial increase, the frequency of these mass wasting events, often enormous and dangerous, declines, in fact independently of meteorological events and aftershocks.
These new findings are presented by a German-Franco-Japanese team of geoscientists in the current issue of the journal Geology, under the lead of the GFZ...
Bacteria do not cease to amaze us with their survival strategies. A research team from the University of Basel's Biozentrum has now discovered how bacteria enter a sleep mode using a so-called FIC toxin. In the current issue of “Cell Reports”, the scientists describe the mechanism of action and also explain why their discovery provides new insights into the evolution of pathogens.
For many poisons there are antidotes which neutralize their toxic effect. Toxin-antitoxin systems in bacteria work in a similar manner: As long as a cell...
It comes when called, bringing care utensils with it and recording how they are used: Fraunhofer IPA is developing an intelligent care cart that provides care staff with physical and informational support in their day-to-day work. The scientists at Fraunhofer IPA have now completed a first prototype. In doing so, they are continuing in their efforts to improve working conditions in the care sector and are developing solutions designed to address the challenges of demographic change.
Technical assistance systems can improve the difficult working conditions in residential nursing homes and hospitals by helping the staff in their work and...
20.08.2015 | Event News
20.08.2015 | Event News
19.08.2015 | Event News
28.08.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
28.08.2015 | Health and Medicine
28.08.2015 | Life Sciences