Digital Platforms & Public Health in Africa

Elaine Nsoesie / Boston University

Abstract: Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are facing a double burden of infectious and noncommunicable diseases. The burden of noncommunicable diseases such as, diabetes and hypertension, are expected to continue increasing. Digital data and tools that can be used to study the patterns of health and disease in populations offer opportunities for improving public health. Digital platforms such as, social media, search engines, and internet forums, have been widely accepted in Sub-Saharan Africa for health information seeking and sharing. These tools can be used to improve public health in Sub-Saharan Africa in three ways: (1) monitoring health information seeking and providing health education, (2) monitoring risk factors, and (3) monitoring disease incidence. However, in order for these tools to be effective, it is important to consider and incorporate into analytical processes the distinct social, cultural, and economic context in Sub-Saharan African countries.

Bio: Dr. Nsoesie is an Assistant Professor of Global Health at Boston University (BU) School of Public Health. She is also a BU Data Science Faculty Fellow as part of the BU Data Science Initiative at the Hariri Institute for Computing and a Data and Innovation Fellow at The Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) in the Office of the President in Sierra Leone. Dr. Nsoesie applies data science methodologies to global health problems, using digital data and technology to improve health, particularly in the realm of surveillance of chronic and infectious diseases. She has worked with local public health departments in the United States and international organizations. She completed her postdoctoral studies at Harvard Medical School, and her PhD in Computational Epidemiology from the Genetics, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology program at Virginia Tech. She also has an MS in Statistics and a BS in Mathematics. She is the founder of Rethé – an initiative focused on providing scientific writing tools and resources to student communities in Africa in order to increase representation in scientific publications. She has written for NPR, The Conversation, Public Health Post and Quartz. Dr. Nsoesie was born and raised in Cameroon.