A class project in the Global Health Informatics course has resulted in a journal publication for Ian Brooks, instructor and research scientist, and students Noah Samuel (PhD) and Janina Sarol (CAS). While the class is offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, graduate students are required to complete an additional project.
Samuel and Sarol completed their project together to answer a question posed by one of the guest speakers in the class. Marcelo D'Agostino, a senior official at the World Health Organization (WHO)/Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), gave a talk about the data and informatics needs of WHO.
"Noah and Janina's project helps to answer a question posed by Marcelo: What is the relationship between government health data policies and government open data initiatives, especially considering that the potential sensitivity of some public health data conflicts with the goals of open data? They shared their final paper with Marcelo, who encouraged them to continue their work in order to publish," said Brooks.
The resulting paper, "Open Data and Public Health," was recently published in Pan American Journal of Public Health (42, 2018). In addition to Brooks and the students, researchers included lead author D'Agostino; Felipe Mejía, an international consultant in Bogotá, Columbia; Myrna Marti and David Novillo-Ortiz of the PAHO Department of Knowledge Management, Bioethics, and Research; and Gerardo de Cosio of the PAHO Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis.
According to the researchers, "It has been established that disease outbreaks such as those that happened during the Ebola and Zika virus epidemics are indicative of the need for countries to develop a framework that will provide guidance for the management of public health data."
The paper showed that there are currently no articulated policy guidelines for the collection and management of public health data across many countries, especially in Latin America. As a result, it stressed the importance of the development of regional frameworks for open data in public health that can be adopted or adapted by each country through appropriate national policies and strategies.