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How Facebook could stop a disease outbreak

Researchers from the Technical University of Denmark, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and The Niels Bohr Institute, determine that cyber communications, such as Facebook, can reflect interpersonal interactions among people and possible disease transmission. The study, published January 3 in the Journal of Royal Society Interface, is the first of its kind to study the relationship between cyber and physical networks and use digital records to advance vaccination efforts and strategies typically observed from physical encounters between individuals.

Dr. Nathaniel Hupert, Associate Professor in WCM’s Department of Healthcare Policy and Research and Department of Medicine, notes that this study addresses the growing wave in cyber-physical interconnections in healthcare and society at large (think of refrigerators that re-order your groceries for you). “We know that digital linkages are increasing in number and complexity throughout society, so it makes sense to try to piggyback on those to advance critical public health goals in the current era of reduced funding for core public health infrastructures, such as disease surveillance and data analytics.”

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