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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Johns Hopkins: Bloomberg School Faculty Conducting Survey to Crowdsource Timely Identification of Epidemics

A team led by Dr. David Bishai, professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s department of population, family and reproductive health, has launched a project to crowdsource the identification of mortality uptrends in the U.S. The project, “Spot the Epidemic,” is recruiting public health professionals to participate in an online survey to examine time trends in cause-specific death rates. The project will use the collected expert opinions to inform a machine-based algorithm for when to declare the start of an epidemic.

In the past 15 years, every state in the U.S. has seen mortality upticks from drug- and alcohol-related deaths and suicide. Not every state responded to their local problems at the same time. One of the problems is that mortality data come in after a 1-2 year delay. Another basic problem is that data have both signal and random fluctuations so it can be difficult to tell the difference. Epidemics have political and financial consequences, so when sounding an alarm, it is important to be timely and to be right.

The short five-minute survey asks respondents to select the point when they would alert local political leaders that there is a problem. The survey is anonymous and open to anyone interested in solving this fundamental dilemma in public health.

View the survey.

The project will run through July 15.