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Using Data and Digital Tools in Public Health: Decision Making in a Health Crisis

Author: Khahlil Louisy

In a public health crisis, collecting, analyzing, and disseminating accurate and timely data is critical for identifying and understanding the nature of the threat, determining the most appropriate response, and tracking the effectiveness of interventions. The recent series of public health emergencies – the COVID-19 global pandemic, followed immediately by an outbreak and rapid transmission of Monkeypox, and a resurgence of Poliovirus in developed cities (which was long thought to have been eliminated or controlled) – highlighted deficiencies in both existing public health infrastructure and practices. Digital tools and Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as sensors provide opportunities for rapid data collection. However, in the United States, the issues of capacity and capability limit the ability of health practitioners to effectively adopt digital solutions to augment existing processes. Additionally, low levels of trust between the public and the federal government contribute to noncompliance with guidelines issued by health authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Finally, disparities in access to health services contribute to substantial negative impact on low-income communities and other marginalized and vulnerable populations.


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