Tag Archives: malaria

World Malaria Report and MCMC

OMG I have got busy. I went to NIPS and the weekend disappeared and now it’s post-doc interview season again, already! So much to say, but I plan to pace myself. For this short post, an exciting announcement that my model of the insecticide treated mosquito net distribution supply chain was used in the WHO 2010 World Malaria Report, which just came out. Since it is a Bayesian statistical model that draws samples from a posterior distribution with MCMC, it’s really nice that the report includes some of the uncertainty intervals around the coverage estimates. Guess what? There is a lot of uncertainty. But nets are getting to households and getting used. Pages 19 and 20 in Chapter 4 have the results of our hard work.


Filed under global health, MCMC

Applied Approximate Counting: Malaria

My first first-authored global health paper came out today (I consider it my first “first-authored” paper ever, since the mathematicians I’ve worked with deviantly list authorship in alphabetical order regardless of seniority and contribution). It’s a bit of a mouthful by title: Rapid Scaling Up of Insecticide-Treated Bed Net Coverage in Africa and Its Relationship with Development Assistance for Health: A Systematic Synthesis of Supply, Distribution, and Household Survey Data.

What I find really pleasing about this research paper is the way it continues research I worked on in graduate school, but in a completely different and unexpected direction. Approximate counting is something that my advisor specialized in, and he won a big award for the random polynomial time algorithm for approximating the volume of convex bodies. I followed in his footsteps when I was a student, and I’m still doing approximate counting, it’s just that now, instead of approximating the amount of high-dimensional sand that will fit in an oddly shaped high-dimensional box, I’ve been approximating the number of insecticide-treated bednets that have made it from manufacturers through the distribution supply-chain and into the households of malaria-endemic regions of the world. I’m even using the same technique, Markov-chain Monte Carlo.

I’ve been itching to write about the computational details of this research for a while, and now that the paper’s out, I will have my chance. But for today, I refer you to the PLoS Med paper, and the technical appendix, and the PyMC code on github.


Filed under MCMC, global health

California foreclosures, mosquitoes, and skate punks

Do you remember last summer’s health scare around the housing market collapse? There was a theory that all the swimming pools in all the foreclosed houses in California would become major mosquito breeding grounds, leading to major crops of mosquitoes, leading to West Nile virus or maybe even the reintroduction of malaria in the US.

There have been some fun ideas for tackling this potential problem, like filling the foreclosed pools with exotic fish. But I woke up today to learn about my new all-time favorite approach: let skateboarder to drain the pools and skate in them. (thx @omarkhalifa)

Bonus points opportunity for my influential readers: WSJ reports that local disease control agencies are doing aerial surveillance for abandoned pools. Can you convince them to release their aerial photos of abandoned pool locations to the local skaters?


Filed under global health, videos

Numbers from World TB Day + Maps of Malaria

Twice as many people were diagnosed with both HIV and tuberculosis in 2007 than were in 2006. (Science Mag, BMJ)

Quote about global health data in the article that is quite consistent with what I’ve seen comes from Richard Chaisson:

“They’re working with the best stuff they have, and the best stuff they have is not good.”

PLoS Med today has an article with some beautiful maps, co-authored by PyMC super-hacker Anand Patil. A World Malaria Map: Plasmodium falciparum Endemicity in 2007.

And, to make it a triple-crown news day for infectious disease, the Pope claims that condoms exacerbate HIV and AIDS problem. (I guess this was the big news a week ago, but it just crossed my desk today.)


Filed under global health

Combinatorics of Malaria Eradication

Malaria infecting a mosquito

I’ve got at least 3 interesting blog posts worth of material on TCS applications for fighting malaria, but I haven’t had time to pen even one of them. Here is an abbreviated version:

Malaria is a major disease, something like the #3 infectious disease globally, and the #1 cause of both death and disability in many parts of Southern Africa.

The Gates Foundation is leading the charge to attempt to eradicate malaria from the world, and many national governments and NGOs are also involved in the fight.

There is a history of malaria eradication attempts, and the historic lesson is this: don’t start a fight with malaria unless you’re going to win.

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Filed under combinatorial optimization, global health, TCS