Online Final Workshop of PULSE Project: Big Data and the Future of Population Health

After four years of implementation the PULSE – Participatory Urban Living for Sustainable Environments project is coming to the end on 30 April. On this occasion, the Final workshop was organised on 28 April. The workshop took place online, gathering almost 200 stakeholders from policy makers to academia to business organisations and engaging them into lively discussion on how data is changing the way the decisions are made in large public healthcare systems, and what are the opportunities and threats of this change.

ECHAalliance, together with the project leader Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, has co-organized the event’s agenda and a series of communication and dissemination activities. The agenda included experts on big data, artificial intelligence and Public Health from Europe and the United States. The aim of the event was to present the results of the four-year international cooperation, as well as open a discussion on the role and capacity of the cities to actively prevent the health crises, including the non-communicable as well as communicable diseases, like COVID19.

The first speaker, Maria Fernanda Cabrera, Associate Professor at the Telecommunication School of the Technical University of Madrid, PULSE Project Coordinator described the challenge the PULSE project addressed as well as the vision it followed and delivered. She highlighted the fact that in the recent years, powerful tools have been developed and numerous open data initiatives have been launched. At the same time, the public health challenges, especially those in the urban environments become more acute. PULSE vision was to transform public health from a reactive to a predictive system focused on both risk and resilience.

Following this, Riccardo Bellazzi, Professor of Bioengineering and Medical Informatics, University of Pavia  and Manuel Ottaviano, Senior Research Manager – Digital Health and Wellbeing, Technical University of Madrid presented the PULSE system: how it works and what services does it offer for citizens, public health organisations, researchers and policy makers. The presentation touched on the details of the PULSE system and introduced the participants to PULSE datasets, citizen mobile application called Pulseair, dashboards for public health organisations, as well as Big Data and Policy course that has been launched as one of the project results.

The first part of the workshop was closed by the keynote presentation from Carme Borrell, Executive Director or the Barcelona Public Health Agency who presented the “Robust and dynamic COVID19 data analytics platform for Barcelona”. The COVID-19 data analytics platform created by the Public Health Agency of Barcelona was presented in detail, highlighting its functionalities and all data it provides for the city decision makers, from the total confirmed cases to distribution of the cases per district to the distribution of the cases in the different socio-economic groups.

The second part of the workshop was a panel discussion with four experts from different countries and professional backgrounds moderated by Jose Pagan, Professor and Chair of the Department of Public Health Policy and Management fromNew York University School of Global Public Health. The panelists discussed how the scientific and technological challenges and ethical concerns should be addressed to build truly participatory population health surveillance systems, supporting data sharing while at the same time setting up the needed legal frameworks and IT industry regulations to unlock the potential of data with no harm for citizens’ privacy.

The panel consisted of:

  • Jo Ivey Boufford, Clinical Professor of Global Health, NYU School of Global Public Health
  • Elisabeth Bengtsson, Consultant, WHO Healthy Cities Network, Division of Policy and Governance for Health and Well-being
  • Thomas Kirchner, Director and Principal Investigator of the mHealth (mobile health) Lab, NYU School of Global Public Health
  • Fiona Donovan, Project Manager, National Healthy Cities and Counties of Ireland at Health Service Executive

The recording of the workshop is available here and all presentations can be accessed here.