Public Health Seminar Series:

Project Tycho: using historical disease surveillance data to advance public health now by Wilbert van Panhuis, M.D., Ph.D.

CO-SPONSOR: UC Irvine Branch of the California Census Research Data Center

Monday, March 9, 2015 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Calit2 Auditorium OCW Video Archive
Seminar Abstract

The Project Tycho® database aims are to advance the availability and use of public health data for science and policy. We do this by acquisition of new data, by building infrastructure for data standardization, integration, quality control, and data redistribution, by developing innovative analytics, and by advocacy. We named the Project Tycho® database after the Danish nobleman Tycho Brahe (1546—1601), who is known for his detailed astronomical and planetary observations. Tycho was not able to use all of his data for breakthrough discoveries, but his assistant Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) used Tycho's data to derive the laws of planetary motion. Similarly, this project aims to advance the availablity of large scale public health data to the worldwide community to accelerate advancements in scientific discovery and technological progress. Currently, we have completed digitization of the entire history of weekly National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS) reports for the United States (1888-2013) into a database in computable format (Level 3 data). We have standardized a major part of these data for online access (Level 2 data). A subset of the U.S. data was cleaned further and used for a study on the impact of vaccination programs in the United States that was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. van Panhuis will described the project and the research breakthroughs credited to this approach. For further information, please visit the project website:

Speaker Biography - Wilbert van Panhuis, M.D., Ph.D.

Wilbert van Panhuis, M.D., Ph.D.
Wilbert van Panhuis, M.D., Ph.D. Department of Epidemiology, MIDAS National Center of Excellence, School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh
Wilbert van Panhuis, MD, PhD, is a faculty member of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. The goal of his work is to accelerate the efficient use of data in public health. Vast amounts of data are collected daily in various domains including biomedicine, public health, demography, climate sciences, etc. that could be used to improve public health. Unfortunately, various barriers limit the use of these data including technical challenges but also political, economic, and ethical issues. His research projects aim to break through these barriers by: 1) building prototype data systems to demonstrate value, 2) conducting data intensive applied public health research, and 3) advance policies and guidelines on the use of data in public health. Dr. van Panhuis oversee a current prototype data system under Project Tycho that unlocked 125 years of newly digitized weekly US disease surveillance data for science and policy (NEJM, New York Times, Washington Post, Scientific American). Data intensive applied research projects include agent-based simulations of vector-borne (dengue, chikungunya) and vaccine preventable diseases (pertussis resurgence), and quantifying the impact of routine childhood immunization programs. On the policy end, his team is working towards a global process to systematically find solutions to advance the use of data in public health. His team is advancing the use of traditional data in public health, such as disease surveillance data, but are also exploring the value of novel data such as electronic medical and laboratory records. For all projects, he works in partnership with health agencies and academics at the global, national, and local level across the world including the World Health Organization, Ministries of Health in Southeast Asia and Latin America, and the US Centers for Disease Control.

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