Washington: University of California, San Francisco is currently working to create an online platform that health workers around the world can use to predict where malaria is likely to be transmitted using data on Google Earth Engine.
The goal is to enable resource poor countries to wage more targeted and effective campaigns against the mosquito-borne disease, which kills 600,000 people a year, most of them children.
Hugh Sturrock, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and a researcher in the Global Health Group, said that faced with a multitude of public health needs, countries often make the mistake of cutting their malaria efforts just when they are close to eliminating the disease and this can have disastrous consequences, since malaria can quickly rebound, putting years of expensive control efforts to waste.
Sturrock added that but with these maps, health workers will know exactly where to target their scarce resources. That way, they can keep fighting the disease until it's eliminated within their borders.
The new tool will be piloted in Swaziland, a country in southern Africa that has limited malaria to a few small pockets across the country through the malaria elimination program it launched in 2008 with help from the Global Health Group. Plans are to make the tool available to health workers in other countries working with the Global Health Group's Malaria Elimination Initiative. The tool could also be adapted to predict other infectious diseases.