Digital Innovation & Health: A Discussion on Harnessing Climate Data and Technology to Combat Malaria

Climate change is complicating efforts to eliminate malaria, which already infects over 240 million people a year and kills over 600 thousand, mostly women and children. Rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and extreme weather events all disrupt health systems and change the range and seasonality of malaria infection.

To help the global development sector address these challenges, this year’s Impact First Digital Development Summit in Lisbon, Portugal brought together INGOs and the public and private sector to share learnings and showcase new tech developments.

Kelly Willis, Malaria No More’s Managing Director of Strategic Initiatives, led a panel discussion on harnessing climate data and technology to combat malaria through the Forecasting Healthy Futures (FHF) initiative and early warning systems.

Innovative technology and climate data save lives

“Climate change introduces a new level of volatility, complicates our ability to control and eliminate malaria, because we need to anticipate seasonality, locations, and introduce interventions ahead of time...The goal is obviously to get more and more precise in those predictions so that we can make the best use of limited resources because we know when and where to target our interventions in anticipation of those outbreaks…predicting demand and sort of deploying commodities appropriately.”

Kelly Willis, Malaria No More Managing Director of Strategic Initiatives

Digital early warning systems empower community health care workers

“What is a good malaria early warning system or early warning system in general? It's basically one that's used. So how do we do that? How do we make sure to use some things like the feedback loop…you know, if you make people collect data in the field that helps them and they don't see how that data is being used for decision making, epidemiological decisions to programmatic decisions, they're not going to collect it or they're not going to care about it.”

James Colburn, Senior Malaria Advisor, Clinton Health Access Initiative

Artificial intelligence equips essential data collection

“We ended up partnering with all sorts of different NGOs… to bring together … a consortium to effectively respond to climate control risks, and we're first addressing malaria elimination, where we basically work on societal adoption, using a science diplomacy approach of engagement of stakeholders at different levels from the community, to the national level. And then we work on technology implementation and making sure people understand what the system is telling them when they receive different sorts of information, making sure we build capacity for people to run this globally.”

William Pan, Associate Professor of Global Environmental Health, Duke University

Learn more about Forecasting Healthy Futures here

William Pan, Associate Professor of Global Environmental Health at Duke University, discusses leveraging artificial intelligence to equip data collection for malaria early warning systems.

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