Research Political Sciences

Putting a Halt to the Spread of Infections

, by Claudio Todesco
The ERC project of Alessia Melegaro aims to integrate demographic trends and social interactions into the models regarding the spread of infections

Alessia Melegaro (Department of Policy Analysis and Public Management) became aware of the need to include realistic demographic processes in epidemiological models in the middle of a presentation at the World Health Organization. "In past years" she says "the spread of infectious diseases has been studied through simulation models based on simplified and atemporal demographic assumptions". As a result, predictions become unreliable and public health measures ineffective.

The impact of Demographic Changes on Infectious DisEases transmission and control in middle/low income countries (DECIDE), hosted by Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policy and awarded with an ERC Starting Grant, aims to harmonize demographic and health survey data to develop new estimates of social contact patterns. "We want to see how demographic changes have affected and will affect the patterns of infectious disease. Demographic change has an impact on the contacts between people and thus on the spread of the disease".

Field studies are an important strand of the project. Data about people's day-to-day social contacts have been gathered in Kenya and Zimbabwe. These two studies involved approximately 3000 individuals. "We asked them to complete diaries of the contacts they had had and of their daily routines. These data allow us to significantly improve our simulation models and our projections of the impact of health policies such as vaccination policy. It's only by taking into account the community structure that you can figure out the chain of infection and identify an appropriate vaccine target population".

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University at the Time of Star Wars
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Wellbeing and Fertility, a Two-Way Relationship
The Role of Financial Imperfections
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How to Evaluate Innovative Ideas
A Help for Those who make Predictions
When a Government is Guided by Values