Big Data Solutions for Public Health Issues

Published Jul-02-18

Addressing food security and nutrition issues with a big data solution that provides information on the location of food banks and health services.

San Diego State University, United States

The Story:

Big Data Solutions for Public Health Issues No matter what industry you are or were in there's a chance that the use of big data is making a big impact, or if it hasn't it will do soon. The big data revolution is the key to solving many problems not just in the corporate world but also in public health. From tackling disease outbreaks to improving hospital processes every facet of healthcare can be improved. There's no limit to what can be achieved when smart people start exploring reams of data to come up with new products, solutions and apps.

Using Data to Solve Real-Life Issues

In 2017 San Diego State University organized and hosted the second Big Data Hackathon for San Diego, a gathering of students, collaborators from varied disciplines and other interested parties to develop projects that could benefit the local community. The theme of the event was Public Health and ideas were sought for new apps, platforms and/or technologies for public health projects.

"Students learned how to analyze public health data and how to use data analytical tools and methods in order to solve real-world public health problems in a teamwork format," said Dr. Ming-Hsiang Tsou, Professor in Geography at San Diego State University.

This open innovation event featured 125 participants who formed 18 teams that spent an entire weekend working on their concepts. They were provided with a raft of resources to help them turn their ideas into realizable projects, including free, publically accessible datasets and learning stations with technology experts.

Their finished projects were assessed by a panel that comprised of university teaching staff and an epidemiologist from the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency.

Submissions were judged according to such criteria as:

• The quality of the idea
• The readiness of the idea to go to market
• The impact of the idea on the public health field
• The innovativeness/creativity of the idea

Six prizes were awarded at the big data event. The overall winner was a team called ‘The Dude Abides’. Their idea addresses the issue of food security and nutrition and is a texting service to provide information on the location of the nearest food banks or health services.

In second place was a team called ‘Data Pros' for a project that analyzes heart disease information in San Diego and provides recommendations for improving heart health.

Other winning ideas included a project that would find alternative cycling/walking routes away from areas known for accidents and air pollution, and an idea to provide information on the locations of water fountains to improve access to free and safe drinking water.

Developing Winning Ideas

All the ideas are in the public domain, and the winners received cash prizes and the opportunity to work with San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Department.

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