This kind of early warning system can also be put to good use in other areas. As part of their work for EO2HEAVEN, the scientists investigated a further two case studies. In the German city of Dresden, they looked at the relationship between air quality measured in terms of temperature, Particulate Matter and ozone and cardiovascular diseases. And in the Durban industrial basin in South Africa, they investigated the correlation between air pollution and asthma.
In the long-term, members of the public also stand to benefit directly from the early warning system. "It's conceivable, for example, that an app for asthmatics would allow a user to set up a personal profile with their own allergic reaction thresholds for pollen count and air quality," says Watson. "By comparing this set of values with measured environmental data, the app would enable each individual to access a personalized risk map, and could issue a warning whenever the threshold values are exceeded."
But the project was not without its challenges. In Germany in particular, obtaining the necessary health data from health insurance companies is difficult since it goes without saying that these data are strictly confidential. So it is important to prepare data in a way that guarantees anonymity in order to safeguard data protection.
What's more, once a high-risk situation has been identified it's not always easy to determine the right measures and actually carry them out; the IT solution is merely a tool that helps people in their decision-making. Whether cholera outbreaks in Uganda can really be confined naturally depends above all on the speed of the response, and on the quality of drinking water, hygiene practices and available medical resources.
|Contact: Sibylle Wirth|