International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) is assisting Taiwan and Panama to fight dengue fever and the Zika virus, two mosquito-borne diseases that have also triggered fretfulness in the United States. The alliances bewtween public health agencies in Panama and Taiwan were executed as part of IBM’s Health Corps initiative, a new, pro bono consulting program that aspires to help develop public health throughout the world. For the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC), IBM aided in creating computer models that might be useful in projecting the effect of interventions to fight dengue fever. Dengue fever is a primary cause of death in the tropics and subtropics. Globally, it is the most rapidly spreading mosquito-borne virus, increasing 30-fold worldwide over the past 50 years. In Taiwan, from 2003 to 2013, there were less than 2,000 annual cases. However, tremendous eruptions have happened in Taiwan during recent years, with tens of thousands of new cases.
One of the plans under contemplation by the Taiwan CDC is to use natural wolbachia bacterium to make it more difficult for mosquitoes to yield the virus that causes dengue. IBM developed computer models that can replicate the impact of wolbachia on the mosquito population and on the number of human dengue cases. It is also important to note that there is a correlation between temperature and larva level and the correlation between temperature and larva level. The aim was to help the Taiwan CDC make more educated decisions to battle the disease. According to Dr. Jih-Haw Chou, Director-General for Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control, “The Health Corps team has hosted last fall not only enhanced my agency’s data analytics capability, but also encouraged my staff to use the analytics framework to accelerate the Work in global disease detection and in fighting against the threat of emerging and re-emerging infectious disease. “
Meanwhile, in Panama, working with Gorgas Memorial Institute in February 2016, IBM developed a surveillance system, including a mobile app, for transmitting time-sensitive information from field researchers to researchers, health officials and policy makers. Public health field researchers are starting to use the app to gather more accurate geo-located information on disease outbreaks and mosquito breeding sites, and will provide this to the country’s Ministry of Health. This will likely expedite more rapid and effective decision-making for infectious disease control. Panama is executing pilot tests of the app in three townships in the next six months, and plans a national roll out by April 2018.
“This tool will allow more precise, geo-referenced, and timely gathering of mosquito breeding site information which in turn will result in quicker response to and control of outbreaks,” said Dr. Nestor Sosa, General Manager, Gorgas Memorial Institute Panama . “The IBM Health Corps team showed us teamwork, profound insights, and great problem solving abilities.”
Declared in 2016, Health Corps is IBM’s most recent example of pro bono consulting and technology services within the company’s portfolio of problem solving initiatives. Health Corps implements cross-disciplinary teams that draw upon IBM’s abilities in data analytics, cognitive and cloud computing, mobile app development, Internet of Things, weather and health consulting to design strategies that help communities enhance the provided aspect of public health. The goal is to address disparities in healthcare access, improve services and increase impact.