Monthly Archives: April 2009

Computers and the Flu

I was reluctant to enter this media frenzy about H1N1 flu (or whatever we end up calling it…), but only 8% of telephone respondents are “not concerned at all” about these events, so I thought I’d say something more than nothing.

Information technology’s main contribution so far has been the rapid spread of misinformation: for example, eating pork is no less safe than usual, despite rumors to the contrary twittering around the globe.

But there is an opportunity for IT to shine a little bit, too. I’m optimistic about Ushihidi’s web2.0 approach to “crowdsourcing crisis information”. Definitely something I can spend too much time looking at.

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Filed under global health

Earth Day and Auctions

Here’s a half-baked post that I started months ago. I decided to rush it to press for Earth Day, which is today.

The first U.S. auction for carbon emission pollution rights occurred in December of 2008. It raised over $38.5B, which will go to six states in New England. From ScienceNOW Daily News:

The auction’s premise is that putting a price tag on pollution–so-called carbon trading–will eventually reduce emissions industrywide. Companies must pay for the right to emit greenhouse gas emissions and are penalized for excess pollution.

RGGI states, picture

The ten states shown in dark green are participating in RGGI. Observers are represented in lime green.

The ten states shown in dark green are participating in RGGI. Observers are represented in lime green.

How did the auction work? online, reserve price, open to investors and environmental groups, required for power companies in RGGI states. Not required for manufacturing or transportation. Any earth-day-interested readers out there to fill in these details? Or, to do a little follow up research about how things have gone? (I wrote this last December.)

Finally, here is a humorous critique of carbon trading, based on the observation that carbon credits are a scarce resource. This is highlighted by a paired example from cheatneutral. I find it compelling.

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Filed under auctions, science policy, videos

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

Mysterious Question: Differences in Health Care Costs

Health Economist Jonathan Skinner gave a talk at IHME about a week and a half ago. He told us about his work on the Dartmouth Atlas of Healthcare, and showed us some of the numbers he’s crunched on the variation of Medicare costs by region. He has found this mysterious, 2.5x variation between the cost of care between expensive regions (like Miami) and inexpensive regions (like Seattle). It seems like a great mystery, and I’ve been puzzling over it for a week now. Any theories? I’m partial to network effects.

Here’s his paper on the subject.


Filed under global health, Mysteries

@healthyalgo is twittering

I guess I’m one to follow the latest fads. I have a blog, right?

I held off even considering “Twitter” for a long time, however. Who cares what I’m doing, right now, in 140 characters?

But that’s not actually what twitter is about (at least its not all that twitter is about). It’s more like having an IRC chat room, but in a public park. But the fauna is synthetic.

Anyway, I’m giving it a try. You can see how it’s going for me here.

My ego does depend a little bit on how many “followers” I have, but I’ve got practice dealing with this. When I was a college radio deejay, I usually had no idea if anyone was listening out there in radio land, so I’d put on my most depressive college radio voice, get on the mic and ask for callers. Then while I waited to see if anyone would call in, I’d dedicate this song to myself:

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Filed under general, videos

Welcome to National Public Health Week

Since 1995, presidential decree has designated the first full week of April to be National Public Health Week in the United States. The American Public Health Association is kicking things off with an online “viral video” campaign. Public health has much more experience trying to stop the spread of viruses, so this campaign has some underdog appeal. It’s also got nice motion graphics, but definitely not my first choice for inspirational music.

(Hey, this soundtrack would be so easy to remix, if only it had an appropriate Creative Commons license. APHA could probably get a bit of notice from folks who wouldn’t otherwise see a public health video by changing the license today and send CC and friends a nice press release. Hint hint.)

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Filed under education, global health, videos