Epidemic Intelligence from Open Sources (EIOS)

The DRMKC provides support to the Epidemic Intelligence from Open Sources (EIOS)  initiative, which brings together several public health stakeholders around the globe to create a unified, multidisciplinary approach to early detection, assessment and communication of public health risk using publicly available information.

The context

As demonstrated by the 2020 COVID-19 global crisis, communicable diseases – especially those caused by respiratory pathogens – can spread wider and faster across countries and continents than ever before, in large part due to increased global travel and trade. In the last decades, other diseases such as influenza, SARS, MERS, Ebola, Zika, plague and yellow fever have been examples of high-impact, fast-spreading diseases causing frequent outbreaks which are increasingly difficult to manage. Urbanisation and population growth, climate change and other environmental issues may also augment the risk of threats having a potentially high cost for human health and a severe impact on economies and societies (Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, 2019 ).

In rapidly evolving situations, early detection and assessment of potential public health threats plays a crucial role for triggering adequate measures that may prevent or mitigate the risk in a timely manner.  Systematic collection and analysis of any relevant publicly available sources of information – including media - are key to better supporting early detection of public health threats on a global scale (World Health Organization, 2014 ). 

The initiative

The EIOS initiative builds on the One Health, All Hazards principle, i.e. the idea that human, animal and environmental health are correlated and that all possible sources of public health risk should be comprehensively monitored, enhancing collaboration and communication between communities of experts with different foci, expertise and mandates.

Two elements are at the heart of the initiative:

  • A community of practice for public health intelligence (PHI), under the leadership of the World Health Organization, including international and regional organisations, WHO Member States, and other partners and collaborators.
  • An IT system collaboratively developed under the scientific and technical lead of the European Commision’s Joint Research Centre. The system supports the institutions which are part of the community of practice in their active performance of the public health intelligence function, not only by extracting article information from publicly available on-line sources, but also by including information from other public health intelligence tools. It collects several thousand articles per hour, automatically classifying them according to potential threats and other topics which are relevant for public health (e.g. measures taken, disease symptoms and outcomes, etc.). Eventually, it makes this large amount of information available to the community of analysts for monitoring and assessment through a web portal.

More about the EIOS Initiative on the WHO website 

The contribution of the DRMKC

The DRMKC is engaged in the continuous development of the EIOS web portal, which integrates articles information extracted by the EMM/Medisys technology (developed by the Competence Centre for Text Mining and Analysis ) and supports the public health intelligence activities carried on by the EIOS community of public health experts.

The Public Health Intelligence function as supported by the EIOS system
The Public Health Intelligence function as supported by the EIOS system.

 

To achieve this, the EIOS web portal integrates tools for visual analytics and collaborative analysis, and enables the exchange of information across different  organizations and teams involved in the initiative.

One priority for the EIOS system in which the DRMKC is particularly engaged is the integration of additional contextual knowledge (including demography, environmental factors, migration and movement patterns, coping capacity of health systems, etc.) to better support the rapid risk assessment  of early identified threats and, subsequently, faster and more effective decision-making.

The key elements for performing rapid risk assessesment
The key elements for performing rapid risk assessesment according to the EIOS apptroach: the early identification of a public health threat is collaboratively assessed by experts with possibly different expertise and focus, and their knowledge is augmented by contextual information about the specific threat.

 

As a first effort in this line of work, the INFORM Risk Index has been integrated in the EIOS. Further development is envisaged to integrate other INFORM tools and a comprehensive library of indicators.

EIOS Newsletter from World Health Organization

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