Monthly Archives: January 2010

haiti.ushihidi by category

What people are saying now: Water shortage, food shortage, medical equiptment needed.  What they are not saying as much anymore: Food, shelter, search and rescue.

(data details in previous post.)


Filed under combinatorial optimization, global health

OR and Crisis Camp

When the earthquake devastated Haiti, Laura McLay asked if OR is helping with the relief efforts.  I’ve been wondering the same thing, and I went to a “Crisis Camp” this weekend to see if there is anywhere I could plug in.

This Crisis Camp business is hard to describe, and I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I showed up, and it seems like most of the other participants didn’t either.  But we all woke up for a 9 AM meeting on Saturday, and we all wanted to do something good for the people of Haiti.

This isn’t exactly something you can make an impact on in a day, and the only tangible result of my work was fixing a typo on a wiki, but I did learn a little bit about what is going on.  One group of geographers did a quick course on Open Street Maps and was able to start helping in an effort to update the maps of Port-au-Prince, tagging blocked roads, collapsed buildings, etc.

I joined group that connected with an ongoing project to find hospitals outside Port-au-Prince and help them share information about available capacity with people who need medical attention.  Like I said, I didn’t manage to help with this in a day, but I did learn about this Sahana project and their success in finding the lat and long of 100 hospitals in Haiti.

Another impressive data sharing tool that I a look at is Ushahidi, which I had heard about before, but never seen in action.  This is a project that has a free SMS gateway for people in Haiti to use to report emergencies or share information.  They translate messages into english and post them on the web with a CC-BY-SA license.  I started looking at them yesterday, and they can be heartwrenching.  Here is the breakdown by category, as of last night:

Does this inspire any operations research solutions?  It makes me think of vehicle routing, if the earthquake damage tags in Open Street Maps show which roads are closed, that is:

I’m not sure if they do.  (Red is map features with the tag earthquake:damage, but those are mostly IDP camps.)

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Filed under combinatorial optimization, global health

Health Care Reform, Accountability, Disparity

I got some good news for the weekend, an opinion piece that I wrote together with some of the other post-graduate fellows at IHME was published online as a Science e-letter. It is titled U.S. Health Care Reform: The Case for Accountability and it’s about the measuring the outputs, outcomes, and impacts of the reform, whatever shape they end up taking.

The part that I was especially interested in adding to the discussion appears in paragraphs 3 and 4, about what these some of these statistics look like currently:

Disparities in health outcomes in the U.S. are unacceptable. A healthy life expectancy at birth in the U.S. ranks behind 28 other developed countries (1). Sizable groups in the United States have mortality risks resembling those in sub-Saharan Africa (2), including urban blacks between the ages of 15 and 64 living in counties with high homicide rates.

On average, Asian women lived 21 years longer than high-risk urban black males in 2001 (2). Although life expectancy for most American women increased between 1983 and 1999, life expectancy for women in 180 counties in areas such as Appalachia, the Deep South, the southern Midwest, and Texas decreased by 1.3 years (3).

I made some figures to accompany this, which Science didn’t print, so I’ve included them for you here:

Probability of a 45 year-old male dying before age 65, 2001, from Murray et al., Eight Americas: Investigating mortality disparities across races, counties, and race-counties in the United States. PLoS Medicine 2006.

Female life expectancy in US counties, 1961-1999 from Ezzati et al., The reversal of fortunes: Trends in county mortality and cross-county mortality disparities in the United States. PLoS Medicine 2008.


Filed under global health, science policy