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Public Health

Combating ‘infodemic’ to tackle a pandemic

By Dr Sumeet Kad

As the global population is marred by the pandemic coronavirus outbreak, a flurry of websites, dashboards, online services and apps related to COVID1-19 are being encountered across the globe. These tools developed by tech giants, start-ups, govt bodies, and healthcare organizations provides relevant information about the symptoms, prevention methods, screening steps, tracking virus spread and offer advice to limit the risk to exposure. However, it is important for us to be aware of which are the most authentic ones to be visited.

Here are some of the latest ones which are out for all us to utilize:

Tech giant Microsoft has launched a new interactive dashboard to provide information on the spread of the virus. The map highlights the total number of cases so far (218, 400 as of today with 8500+ deaths in over 164 countries) which is further broken down into cases per country. The tool pulls live data from variety of sources such as WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and Wikipedia.

Quro is a Covid-19 risk assessment tool developed by Medius Health, an AI digital health company in Australia. This easy to use online conversational platform is in accordance with WHO guidelines, and aids in determining  your level of risk based on your symptoms, medical & travel history. It thereby provides accurate education to the public on the virus and collects data for healthcare providers for early intervention.

As increasing number of countries are shutting down schools and colleges, there are various online tools available which can be used by students and educators. Ekstep, an on-demand open learning platform, that facilitates creation and consumption of educational content. Plenty of educational content is available on the app which can be used by students in a self-paced manner. Online tutoring platform Vedantu is providing free live classes for all its courses including IIT preparation modules. Latest ed-tech unicorn, Byju’s, is offering free access to its learning app till the end of April.

Apart from this pandemic, populations have to address another menace in the form of false news, videos and content that are flooding social channels. To counter these, Facebook owned WhatsApp has launched a coronavirus-related information website in partnership with WHO, UNICEF and UNDP. This page has latest and accurate info for general population, governments and healthcare professionals enabling them to communicate efficiently in these tragic times.

Regional language content start-ups have started publishing accurate content in local languages related to coronavirus in order to tackle misinformation. Josh Talks has added advisories to all its videos on eight different languages and has also initiated a series of videos by doctors and healthcare professionals spreading more awareness about the disease. These videos are dubbed in local languages for people to easily understand. Local news platform Lokal, which delivers local news, information and classifieds to 900 million non-English speaking users in India, is amplifying awareness through sharing relevant and accurate info, emergency contact numbers, videos etc.

The novel coronavirus global pandemic is a medical emergency that requires a substantial individual effort as well to combat its spread and impact. We should make sure that only authentic information is gained and spread for the benefit of all.

About the author

Dr Sumeet Kad is a Healthcare and Artificial Intelligence Leader, focusing on leveraging technology to create a model for affordable care.