Feature Articles

Open Source Solutions For Public Health Case Reporting and COVID-19

The United States is continuing its slow emergence from a nation-wide shut down imposed to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Most states have started to reopen, with bars, restaurants, and many workplaces starting to fill. As people begin to spend more time together again, it is critically important that public health agencies do everything they can to help prevent further spread of the infection and continue to monitor the level of infection within the population. Data is an important tool that public health has to understand what is going on in the country. Years of limited government investment and neglect of current systems has limited public health's ability to meet the challenges of managing both localized outbreaks and pandemics.

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And We Thought Pandemics Were Bad...Time to Examine The Threat from Microplastics

The ocean full of microplastics, and fish are as well. They're in our drinking water. Indeed, "There's no nook or cranny on the surface of the earth that won't have microplastics," Professor Janice Brahney told The New York Times. Dr. Brahney was coauthor on a recent study that found microplastics were pervasive even in supposedly pristine parts of the Western U.S. They estimated that 1,000 tons of "plastic rain" falls every year onto protected areas there; 98% of soil samples they took had microplastics. Dr. Brahney pointed out that, because the particles are both airborne and fine, "we're breathing it, too." She admitted: "It's really unnerving to think about it."

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US Senate Releases Draft Future Pandemic Preparedness Plan - Asks for Feedback

On June 10, 2020 the US Senate released a white paper titled "Preparing for the Next Pandemic" under the signature of Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. The white paper has five recommendations to address future pandemics based on lessons learned from COVID-19 and the past 20 years of pandemic planning. "The five recommendations...along with a series of questions at the end of this white paper, are intended to elicit recommendations that Congress can consider and act on this year," Senator Alexander said in a statement, adding that "I am inviting comments, responses, and any additional recommendations for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to consider. This feedback will be shared with my colleagues, both Democrat and Republican." This feedback from the public will be accepted until June 26, 2020... Read More »

Changing the world with open source: GNOME president shares her story

Growing up in Silicon Valley, Nuritzi Sanchez saw the powerful impact software can make on the world. Yet, unlike many others who were also steeped in the tech industry, her journey has taken her into the world of open source, where she is contributing to that impact. After graduating from Stanford University with a degree in International Relations, she became a founding team member of open source computing company Endless OS, served three terms as president and chair of GNOME's board of directors, and in February 2020 was hired as the senior open source program manager (OSPM) at GitLab. I am impressed by this talented woman, and I reached out to her to learn more about her and her work. I believe you will also be fascinated with her journey after reading our interview, which has been lightly edited for clarity.

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OpenMRS Receives Mozilla Open Source Support Program Award for COVID-19 Response

When the OpenMRS community learned about the COVID-19 Solutions Fund set up by Mozilla as a part of their ongoing Mozilla Open Source Support Program (MOSS) in early April, we saw this as the perfect opportunity to support our community's COVID-19 response. The idea at the time? Build out a suite of science-based COVID-19 tools that could also be used for future disease outbreaks - and make them easily available to people looking for a way to manage COVID-19 patient data and surveillance efforts. OpenMRS Inc became one of 163 applicants from 30 countries that MOSS received within two months. We are honored to be among the six awardees to date, receiving a $49,754 award that will advance the COVID-19 Response Squad's work over the next three months.

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Open Source Solutions for Immunization Tracking and COVID-19

The United States is starting to emerge from a nation-wide shut down imposed to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Most states are starting to reopen, and while higher education will likely stay largely remote this fall, primary and secondary schools are expected to reopen as the economy tries to get back on its feet. As both children and adults begin to spend more time together again, it is important to understand the impact that COVID-19 is having on current immunization practices and services, and how open source software is being leveraged to keep the population safe.

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Pandemic Stress Test: The Open Source Cloud Is Up To The Challenge

We all know that modern business has become a rapid-response environment. Never before have we had the number of IT resources at the tips of our fingers as we have today, and most of them are enabled by the cloud. When we refer to "the cloud", we may be talking about several computing concepts, but typically the cloud consists of a set of remotely-hosted resources and services, from web pages to mobile apps or even traditional desktop applications. The cloud continuously transforms our connectivity on a global scale. It can be found everywhere, from our vehicles to our phones and even to our watches. From what we are witnessing right now, the cloud may ultimately safely carry numerous organizations through a global crisis.

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Hiding Our Heads in the Sand - Why the US is Unprepared for Pandemics and Disasters

A new report from the Trust for America's Health minces no words. President and CEO John Auerbach charges: COVID-19 has shined a harsh spotlight on the country's lack of preparedness for dealing with threats to Americans' well-being. Years of cutting funding for public health and emergency preparedness programs has left the nation with a smaller-than-necessary public health workforce, limited testing capacity, an insufficient national stockpile, and archaic disease tracking systems - in summary, twentieth-century tools for dealing with twenty-first-century challenges.

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Pandemics Are the Mother of Invention

Many believe that the Allies won WWII in large part because of how industry in the U.S. geared up to produce fantastic amounts of weapons and other war materials. It took some time for businesses to retool and get production lines flowing, during which the Axis powers made frightening advances, but once they did it was only a matter of time until the Allies would prevail. Similarly, COVID-19 is making scary inroads around the world, while businesses are still gearing up to produce the number of ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE), tests, and other badly needed supplies. COVID-19 is currently outnumbering these efforts, but eventually we'll get the necessary equipment in the needed amounts. Eventually. What intrigues me, though, is how people are innovating, inventing new solutions to the shortages we face. I want to highlight a few of these:

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How to Contribute to Open Source Healthcare Projects for COVID-19

Many of those that are familiar with the maker movement, including me, believe there is a significant opportunity to apply open source design principles and mass-scale collaborative distributed manufacturing technologies (like open source 3D printing) to at least partially overcome medical supply shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic...Many people agree there is enormous potential with the approach despite the challenges and have started to self-organize to develop open source hardware to fight COVID-19. The largest group is Project Open Air. They are a group of "Helpful Engineers" who have congregated to aid in the COVID-19 pandemic response by developing both open source hardware and open source software. The Helpful Engineers are working on medical devices such as open source ventilators, to create a solution that can be quickly reproduced and assembled locally worldwide. Read More »

How open source software is fighting COVID-19

Since the end of January, the [open source] community has contributed to thousands of open source repositories that mention coronavirus or COVID-19. These repositories consist of datasets, models, visualizations, web and mobile applications, and more, and the majority are written in JavaScript and Python. Previously, we shared information about several open hardware makers helping to stop the spread and suffering caused by the coronavirus. Here, we're sharing four (of many) examples of how the open source software community is responding to coronavirus and COVID-19, with the goal of celebrating the creators and the overall impact the open source community is making on the world right now.

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Corporate Resilience During A Pandemic

As humanity grapples with the spread of COVID-19 globally, the emotional response is to do something, anything, everything. But how do we take that energy and successfully adapt? Most prudent organizations have had on their radar more visible threats like hurricanes, earthquakes, power outages, terrorism, and war. The quiet pervasiveness of a pandemic seems to have caught us by surprise. But is adapting to a pandemic really that different? The good news is that proven principles still apply. Read More »

ONC Releases Final Rule on Interoperability: How Might it Affect Public Health?

On March 9, 2020 the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released its final rule on the 21st Century Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program. Referred to by some people as the "Information Blocking Rule," since this is the primary topic, the document actually covers a host of other issues related to interoperability driven primarily by requirements of the 21st Century Cures Act. In addition to the final rule itself you can read the ONC press release, a comparison between the proposed and final rules, and lots of other resources.

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The Need for Speed - It's Time to Act!

As a society we also need to get moving on the population level as well - and the sooner the better! In his fascinating genomic epidemiology detective work Trevor Bedford conducted based on the COVID-19 research he and his team had done in the Bedford lab in Seattle WA, he concluded that the narrow testing that was done in the Seattle area in the early days of the Coronavirus spread allowed the virus to spread faster. In contrast, the Coronavirus testing-blitz in South Korea appears to keep the death rate lower than it could be. It's time to test! The FDA gave high-tech labs the green light to operate tests before receiving any agency review or authorization and both Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp already announced that they have test in the market. But according to CDC, as of March 8 there were only 1,707 tests performed in the US vs. 189,236 in South Korea.

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Coronavirus and the Recurring Mistake of Fighting the Wrong Wars

What do the coronavirus and Navy ships have in common? For that matter, what do our military spending and our healthcare spending have in common? More than you might think, and it boils down to this: we spend too much for too little, in large part because we tend to always be fighting the wrong wars.I started thinking about this a couple weeks ago due to a WSJ article about the U.S. Navy's "aging and fragmented technology." An internal Navy strategy memo warned that the Navy is "under cyber siege" by foreign adversaries, leaking information "like a sieve." It grimly pointed out...

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