The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued a challenge to developers to design web-based applications that use Twitter to track health trends in real time.
The hope is that health officials will use knowledge of these trends to figure out emerging health issues and warn communities about public health emergencies.
The challenge is through HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. The contest, called Now Trending—#Health in My Community, will run online through June 1.
“When we looked back at the H1N1 pandemic, we saw that, in some cases, social media trends provided the first clues to flu outbreaks,” Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said in a statement. “Based on that 2009 pandemic experience, local health officials asked for our help in developing a Web-based tool that could make social media monitoring useful as part of the surveillance systems in place now to identify new diseases early.”
HHS says it’s looking for an application that’s “innovative, scalable, dynamic, and user-friendly. The app must use open-source Twitter data to deliver a list automatically of the top five trending illnesses over a 24-hour period in a specified geographic region. The application must be able to send the data to state and local health agencies.”
The winner will receive $21,000 from ASPR as well as a $1,000 travel stipend to attend an event announcing the winner.
More information can be found here.