Courtesy of Eastern Connecticut State University

Eastern Connecticut State University Launches Data Analytics Project to Localize and Inform Policy on Disease Outbreaks

Eastern Connecticut State University launched a project to better inform policymakers and the public about the impacts of COVID-19, and policies to slow its spread, on Connecticut specifically. The project, called the Eastern Institute of Data Analytics, will provide modeling and analysis on the current pandemic, as well as future outbreaks of disease.

“Our goal is to provide information to the general public and to provide policymakers with analyses and insights that may shape decision making in the state,” said Yaw Nsiah, the department chair of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University. “While a lot of national health and other information is available, it is often impossible or difficult for the average person to find useful information about their state, their county and their town. The Eastern Institute for Data Analytics will make this information more accessible, and will provide to the public, for free, expert analysis and data regarding public issues in the state.”

To start, the institute’s two websites will highlight both the health and economic impacts seen thus far during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as continually updated predictions for the month to come. The models used on the site explore the impacts of social distancing, mask wearing and the state’s gradual reopening.

“Connecticut is very much an outlier in the United States with the third or fourth most fatalities per capita,” explained Brendan Cunningham, a professor of economics at Eastern Connecticut. “We need to be able to analyze what happened here and not just look at national models and trends to make decisions.”

The institute plans on regularly reviewing their predictions and assessing what actually occurred to help the public understand why events differ from the model predictions.

“It’s a cyclical process to go back and reform and revisit as we learn more about what happens and what is happening,” said Garrett Dancik, a professor of computer science at the university.

A primary goal of the institute is to make data and prediction modeling more understandable and accessible to the general public. All charts and graphs displayed will include descriptive interpretations of the data in order to explain what the data is showing.

The institute does not plan on limiting its work to the COVID-19 pandemic. The hope is that with the platform and leadership in place, the project can be used for other disease outbreaks in the future including the yearly influenza season, cancer and opioid use.

“By educating the public, we hope to be helpful during COVID-19 and other pandemics,” Nsiah said. “The institute will continue to be active long after COVID-19.”

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