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Using Geospatial Data to Mitigate the Spread of Disease

Using Geospatial Data to Mitigate the Spread of Disease

By Luke Carothers

One of the most frequent topics of conversation in the AEC industry is the collection and use of data.  Tied up in this conversation is the way in which firms handle new data related to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Measures used to mitigate the spread of Covid-19–such as specified stay-at-home orders and capacity restrictions–have been implemented at various stages of the pandemic, but some are hoping to guide these mitigation efforts using an advanced analysis of the available data.

One of these people looking to help industry better manage and understand this process is Ajay Gupta, CEO of HSR.health, which is a health risk analytics firm.  Gupta believes that at its core, his company is focused directly on improving health outcomes.  In order to improve health outcomes, HSR.health uses “advanced data science with innovative public health interventions to improve health outcomes for health systems, insurers, and industries”, according to Gupta.  In addition, this will also lead to reduced costs for these entities.

This process begins with using Artificial Intelligence (AI) models to curate the data and “underpin the relationship between social determinants of health and health outcomes and costs.”  One of the challenges in this is defining social determinants of health.  For Gupta and the rest of HSR.health, the social determinants of health should be wide ranging, including things like environmental factors, transportation networks, and climate change.  Accurately defining the social determinants of health allows the team at HSR.health to assess the risk of anyone across the population for an adverse health event.  Access to this kind of information and analysis is invaluable, particularly during a global pandemic.  It allows us to accurately plan for things like the volume of PPE needed at a hospital during an outbreak or predict the spread of an infectious disease.

One of the tools that HSR.health has developed, known as the Business Risk Index, is aimed at helping public health decision-makers with “actionable, business-level insights to help develop targeted policies.”  In other words, the Business Risk Index is an attempt to define and understand the locations where disease spread took place so that mitigation efforts like lockdowns, social distancing, and capacity reduction are more effective going forward.  Gupta likens this process to “reverse contact tracing.”  This view hinges on accurate local reporting of cases, which, during the recent pandemic, has been much more reliable than at any other time in history.  This local reporting is combined with aggregate data of foot traffic in various businesses.  Gupta believes that this view alleviates traditional concerns associated with contact tracing such as privacy and inaccuracy of movement data.

This has significant implications given the frequency of work stoppages that have taken place over the course of the last year and a half.  Blanket lockdowns have forced an endless number of projects to shut down, which has proven costly for those firms involved.  Conversely, inaccurate reporting through contract tracing has allowed for Covid-19 to adversely affect many worksites.  Through using the Business Risk Index, businesses are able to both prevent unnecessary lockdowns as well as plan and prepare for local outbreaks.  This includes using this information to improve the built environment as well.

As the AEC industry continues to battle with the effects of the pandemic, it is important that the topic of worker safety remain at the forefront of the conversation.  The work Gupta and his team at HSR.health are doing is essential to both mitigating the spread of infectious disease and preparing for its effects, which, in the long run, will only prove beneficial in terms of worker health outcomes and the financial viability of projects.

Luke Carothers is the Editor for Civil + Structural Engineer Media. If you want us to cover your project or want to feature your own article, he can be reached at lcarothers@zweiggroup.com.