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Archive for the ‘Case studies’ Category

Disease Outbreaks and Economics: an Interview with Prof. Rodolphe Desbordes

“Our results indicate that factors fostering a disease outbreak in one country can quickly lead to the emergence of a disease outbreak in another country.”

Epidemic infectious disease outbreak with person analyzing virus strain and worldwide situation. SARS-CoV-2 pathogen causing coronavirus covid-19 pandemic disrupting social and economic life

 

In March 2021, the Journal of Mathematical Economics published a research paper, Spatial dynamics of major infectious diseases outbreaks: A global empirical assessment. The article explored the spatial dependence of outbreaks and the role of globalization, analyzing 20 years’ worth of major outbreaks in developed and developing countries. The study found empirical evidence that ‘local outbreaks of many different infectious diseases can quickly spread to other countries’. Mortality consequences were found to be ‘much more severe in developing countries’.

 

Economics professor Rodolphe Desbordes
Prof. Rodolphe Desbordes

We spoke with the author Rodolphe Desbordes, a Professor of Economics at SKEMA Business School, about the importance of this research and the reasons behind choosing GIDEON as the data source.

Prof. Desbordes has widely published in the fields of International Economics and Economic Development. His current research interests encompass applied econometrics, determinants of political regime changes, and the links between biodiversity, economic activity, and zoonotic diseases.

 

 

How did you find out about GIDEON? 

I was looking for data with worldwide coverage on outbreaks of infectious diseases. I was really surprised not to find this information easily (e.g. provided by the WHO). In a few papers, I noticed their use of GIDEON.

 

What were the reasons behind choosing the GIDEON database for your analysis? 

I am really an applied macroeconomist, often interested in very global issues. For this reason, I need databases with long (time) and wide (spatial) coverage to run estimations. GIDEON was the perfect database for the epidemiological project I had in mind. In addition, for a non-specialist, the information provided on each disease was crucial to a better understanding of disease-specific characteristics.

 

How could healthcare systems benefit from a more econometric approach? 

Adopting an econometric approach is useful to reveal broad patterns, isolate the effects of specific factors, and carry out projections. This type of approach must be done in conjunction with expert knowledge of local conditions.

 

What is the importance of taking epidemiological data into account in the context of international policymaking? 

Deming said that “without data, you are just another person with an opinion”. Data are essential to guide domestic and international policymaking. Lots of data still need to be produced, in order to strengthen surveillance systems.

 

Do you consider developed countries’ decision to donate COVID-19 vaccines a step towards achieving a GPG (Global Public Good), and do you see this becoming more commonplace?

Some people have argued that the current pandemic is a rehearsal for the coming climate change crisis. It is essential that developed countries stop acting as if they live on a different planet where bad things do not happen to them. An unfortunate advantage of global crises is that even self-interested rich countries contribute to the Global Public Good. However more needs to be done. Donating vaccines is an encouraging sign.

 

Do you believe the current pandemic will encourage a more global view of public health concerns and their associated impact on economies? 

This is a tough question! We have been warned repeatedly about the risks of emerging infectious diseases. But, unfortunately, we did not act to prevent global pandemics from happening. One may hope that we will draw out the right lessons from the current pandemic. However, I am skeptical. For policymakers, the future always seems far away and purely national issues much more pressing than uncertain existential risks.

 

What value did having access to global data add to your study?

As an applied economist, I value excellent data on a novel and interesting issue more than anything else. The GIDEON database allowed me to publish in an excellent journal and, most importantly, carefully model the spatial diffusion of infectious diseases in a globalized world.

 

How would you have gone about collecting the outbreaks data if the GIDEON database did not exist? 

One possibility would have been to exploit the Global Burden of Disease data. However, despite the provider’s best efforts, the reliability of these data remains uncertain, and diseases are aggregated in relatively coarse categories.

 

In your article, you mentioned the GIDEON database is under-exploited – do you believe it could further contribute to the field of Economics and how? 

Infectious diseases have now become a hot topic in Economics. For various reasons, including data availability, the effects of many diseases were neglected. I hope that my use of the GIDEON database will alert researchers to this incredible information source and encourage more epidemiological research.

 

Click here to read the open-access article Spatial dynamics of major infectious diseases outbreaks: A global empirical assessment

 

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INCREASING EPIDEMIC FREQUENCY

There’s mounting evidence that the rates of infectious disease outbreaks have been increasing in frequency over the past few years. Perhaps even in the past two decades.

From the period of the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 to the HIV/AIDS epidemic around 1981, there were only six pandemics on record. Approximately one per decade.

However, since the SARS outbreak of 2002, there has been an increased frequency of outbreaks.

The records show that SARS was quickly followed by several recurring and new outbreaks. AVIAN flu, MARBURG virus, SWINE flu, MERS, and EBOLA to name a few. 

COVID being the latest in the pattern of epidemics has grown into a pandemic. 

The world has gone from dealing with one serious outbreak every decade to dealing with a serious outbreak every couple of years. There have been 10 major outbreaks between 2002 and 2020.

 

IGNORING THE EVIDENCE 

Despite this growing trend, most companies didn’t consider epidemics a risk to their business.

The reason for this indifference to risk was simple. Pandemics that badly ravaged the world seemed isolated to the singular event of the Spanish flu. And this isolated event was about a century old. 

Added to this was the fact that epidemic insurance had little precedent as a product. And it is very complex to model and calculate. Coverage for business interruption due to communicable diseases was not typically offered by traditional insurance policies.

However, the situation now is that COVID-19 has changed all that. Organizations must prepare more carefully now given the recent impact of the pandemic. Knowing the historical records of the Spanish flu makes it prudent to prepare even more mindfully.

 

SEEING THE TREND 

Some insurers have taken notice of the increase in outbreaks of epidemics. 

Munich RE is a global provider of reinsurance, primary insurance, and insurance-related risk solutions. They took note of the increased rate of epidemic and pandemic events and started responding to the data. 

They decided to build a model that assesses epidemic risk. Building a model that allows for epidemic risk assessment is a very important part of developing insurance against that risk.

For this, they needed to have good data on infectious diseases over the past decades.

 

GIDEON DATA PAVES THE WAY TO A SUCCESSFUL MODEL

Munich RE employed GIDEON’s outbreak data in building its epidemic risk assessment model. It improved the accuracy and depth of their underlying data and the quality of their results.

Munich RE now offers Epidemic Risk Solutions to several industries including those that were hit the hardest by the COVID pandemic. 

GIDEON’s data paved the way for accurate models to assess risk and provide insurance coverage in the event of business interruption as a result of an epidemic.

This allows insurers to close a significant coverage gap that traditional insurance doesn’t.

With GIDEON’s disease outbreak data, insurers can make companies more resilient against business interruption due to an epidemic or pandemic. 

Companies have a stronger outlook now as epidemic and pandemic insurance has become a reality.

Read the full case study here

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Diagnosis tool of choice for 27 years

A group of infectious diseases clinicians standing together
GIDEON is ideally suited to assist infectious diseases specialists

 

Read the full case study here

Medical Doctors have a serious enough job to do when caring for people’s health. But when their patients have recently been to other countries this may increase the complexity even more.

They must get information on the current state of infectious diseases in the country where the patient has been. With over 200 countries worldwide, doctors would have to be walking databases of infectious diseases.

SITUATIONS MEDICAL DOCTORS HAVE TO DEAL WITH

For example, now the flight restrictions due to COVID are being eased, it is reasonable to expect that experts will once again be called out to go to other countries and help with their knowledge.

If these experts fall ill when they return home, their doctors will have the job of getting information on infectious diseases in the countries they had just visited.

This can be complicated by many factors. Limited data, remote destinations, similar symptoms for multiple diseases, and numerous diseases in the given country, etc.

These factors may also lead to misdiagnoses and mistreatment.

In fact, in the case of an Israeli agricultural expert who fell ill when he returned from India he was misdiagnosed several times. And of course, he was then treated for the wrong disease.

However, when his symptoms were entered into GIDEON he was correctly diagnosed and treated. He was discharged in good health a week later.

QUICK & RELIABLE INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIAGNOSIS

This is just one of the many reasons why Dr. Jeffrey P. Gumprecht says that GIDEON is irreplaceable.

Nothing compares to GIDEON for diagnosing infectious diseases. Especially when a person’s health and life are at stake.

Dr. Gumprecht puts some details into the interactive tool. Details like when a patient traveled to a specific country, when they returned, their symptoms, and the organ systems involved. That’s all GIDEON needs to generate a Differential Diagnosis.

It also enables him to share information with other infectious disease specialists. He says it’s an amazingly valuable source of information, helping users to quickly reach a diagnosis.

GIDEON – BETTER THAN A LIBRARY

Dr. Gumprecht prefers it to the Library at New York University because he can get a full description of any infectious disease from GIDEON.

As great as libraries might be, none of the online library platforms have diagnostic tools. Going to the library at best extends the patient’s suffering. At worst it costs critical time a patient might not have.

That’s why Dr. Gumprecht thinks nothing compares to GIDEON. It’s invaluable to have a solution where all of the information on infectious diseases is available in one place. It eliminates the need to go through multiple review articles or separate websites.

GIDEON is very beneficial to the infectious disease fellows at Mt Sinai hospital where Dr. Gumprecht works.

Read the full case study here

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Predicting the future with GIDEON data

Researcher and globe

Study the past if you would define the future.” – Confucius

If you want to study the past then GIDEON is a great place to do so. The question is, what would you do with over 750,000 data points, dating back to the 17th Century?

A team of researchers answered in a recent interview.

  • Tad Dallas, Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University
  • Colin J. Carlson, Assistant Research Professor at Georgetown University
  • Timothée Poisot, Assistant Professor at Université de Montréal

Idea

“The three of us have talked a lot about why predictions and ecology work or don’t work. We all share a lot of frustrations about where things fall short and how things get framed. We were having a conversation one day about what sort of minimum information is that you would need to know what the future looks like. Then Tad said: “I’m going to make a model with no predictors”. 

“It opened up this incredibly interesting question – What do we do with this model if it’s able to do predictions?”

How did the GIDEON data help with the study?

“We tried to make a completely predictor free model to just see if we can let the similarity of pathogen communities to inform prediction and see how this can influence the future.”

“The main question was to get a sense of what happens where and when it happens”, said Colin. “There isn’t any cohesive narrative about where outbreaks happen. We used the GIDEON data because we thought it might be the most complete thing there is.” 

The outcome

The team produced a research paper “Testing predictability of disease outbreaks with a simple model of pathogen biogeography“, published by The Royal Society in November 2019. It proved effective at making the disease outbreak predictions and was created using only GIDEON data. Impressive!

Predicting the future outbreaks - two diagrams

The value of data is only realized when it is put into context and made relevant to a particular problem or theory. You provide the context and the problem, and we’ll provide you with the data. How could GIDEON fuel your research?

Read the full case study here.

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