‘Forecasting Healthy Futures’ Initiative Kicks Off in Odisha to Curb Mosquito-Borne Diseases in India with Weather Data

Bhubaneshwar: Malaria No More, a non-governmental organization with operations in India, and IBM (NYSE: IBM) and its subsidiary The Weather Company, today unveiled ‘Forecasting Healthy Futures’ in India, to improve health outcomes and accelerate India’s progress against deadly mosquito-borne diseases.

The global initiative will focus first on Odisha state, and will leverage technology and weather data to target effective health interventions in the face of changing weather patterns and increased frequency of extreme weather events. Mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika, are a major global health challenge affecting 340 million people annually, with the world’s most marginalized populations disproportionately impacted.

Forecasting Healthy Futures has been instituted globally with seed funding from ‘Reaching the Last Mile’, a global health initiative of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, which also will provide technical expertise from across its networks. In addition, PATH is supporting the development and integration of the critical data systems and dashboards to enable decision making, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation brings in programmatic and policy expertise and the Tableau Foundation is providing additional financial support, software licenses and training.

“Odisha has shown tremendous progress in timing interventions to seasonality and being proactively prepared for extreme weather events, thereby mitigating the impact of disease outbreaks that typically follow,” said Dr. Sanjeev Gaikwad, Country Director for Malaria No More India. “Odisha’s innovative testing-and-treatment campaigns have demonstrated the power of timing and targeting routine interventions to seasonal events like the arrival of the monsoons, and the Odisha Government was successful in preventing disease outbreaks following Cyclone Fani that hit the state in 2019.”

“As substantiated by The Weather Channel brand’s ‘Mosquito Index’, weather has a strong influence on the activity of mosquitoes, which in turn, impacts the prevalence of malaria and other deadly mosquito-borne diseases,” said Himanshu Goyal, India Business Leader, The Weather Company, an IBM Business. “As the COVID-19 pandemic puts a strain on our healthcare infrastructure, it becomes even more crucial to arrest the spread of diseases like malaria. With the ongoing monsoon season expected to continue to be wetter-than-normal at 108% of average rainfall, it is essential to have a system ready to closely monitor malaria and create deep insights to help stakeholders make better decisions. Forecasting Healthy Futures initiative is thus a great instance of using technology and weather data for the good of society and proves its potential to benefit healthcare, pharmaceutical and other industries.”

To help improve public health, the initiative partners will strengthen data systems and strategies by integrating micro weather and mosquito population data sets with existing disease risk, intervention coverage, supply chain and epidemiological data sets. A dashboard and use cases will help Odisha inform their malaria intervention strategies in the coming year. The partners will also work closely with national and state vector-borne disease control programs in Odisha and other malaria-affected regions across the world, as well as donor governments and global policymakers, to identify research needs around the impact of changing weather patterns.

The initiative builds on MNM India’s capacity working with the government to extend Odisha’s success in the last few years in which they used innovative malaria intervention strategies at the village level timed to weather. Until recently, Odisha stood apart with India’s highest malaria burden. The state recorded a 90% drop in malaria cases over the past three years.

Mona Hammami, Senior Director, Office of Strategic Affairs to the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court said, “To tackle mosquito-borne disease eradication faster, we need to focus on innovations that take a multi-disciplinary approach, leveraging the intersections between health and areas like technology and climate change to bring fresh voices into the conversation.”

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