EMU partners with China university to help with public health information
YPSILANTI - A highly-contagious, pneumonia-like virus spread across China in 2003 and, within a couple months, more than 700 people had confirmed or suspected cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
A new partnership between Eastern Michigan’s Institute for Geospatial Research and Education (IGRE) and China’s Tianjin Normal University (TNU) could help future containment efforts of such outbreaks by using a Web system to map where it occurs and spreads.
Yichun Xie, director of EMU’s IGRE, has received $50,000 from TNU to develop a Web system to analyze public health-related information.
“The system will assist public health workers in making plans for disease prevention and in handling emergencies,” said Xie, who began the project November 2004 and plans to have the system completed and running by September 2005.
“The Web Geographic Information System (GIS) is a popular and cutting-edge research technology, but its application in a developing country to solve real problems is unique,” said Xie.
GIS links location to information and layers that information to provide a better understanding of how it all interrelates.
Xie said the system will be a first response pilot program that will deal with the “where” of an emergency: where the closest hospital that can treat a patient is located or where many people were when they could have contracted a similar illness. Using SARS as an example, Xie said the Web system could have helped health officials decide which hospitals to send patients, while mapping the affected geographic areas in hopes of containing the disease.
“EMU will create the system, prepare the operating manuals and train the GIS staff at Tianjin Normal University to use it,” said Xie. “This is a big project that will help a lot of people, and one that EMU can take pride in developing and implementing.”
“This new software could have applications in the United States for public health, in addition to helping EMU develop a long-term relationship with China,” said Robert Holkeboer, EMU vice president for graduate studies and research.
Holkeboer and Xie initially cooperated with TNU on joint, double degree programs in GIS planning and economics. That contact led to discussions about the development of the Web system during their trip to Tianjin in spring 2004.
Xie will personally travel to TNU with the software to train the faculty and staff on how to install the system, operate it, connect with the health data and update the system when the data changes. At that time, TNU will be working with the Tianjin Municipal Government Center for Disease Control.
Xie, of Ann Arbor, also is professor and interim head of EMU’s geography and geology department.
Tianjin Normal University was founded in 1958 and has 10 schools and colleges, and more than 1,000 full-time faculty and 31 research institutions. The city of Tianjin is the third largest city in China, following Beijing and Shanghai.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.
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