New digital platform in India uses social media to track down vector-borne diseases

The Institution of Engineering and Technology, a professional engineering institution, has launched a digital platform that tracks vector-borne diseases in India.

Called Social Analytics for Rapid Transformation in Health for India (SARTHI), the platform uses publicly available data to track mentions of dengue, malaria, and chikungunya.

It was developed in partnership with Siemens Healthineers India, the Centre for Health Research and Innovation, and Paris-based IT company Capgemini. 


SARTHI takes publicly available information across digital channels such as online news broadcasts, forums, blogs, and social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to review and track mentions of the aforementioned diseases. It looks at these granular data to trace and track down their origin to district and street locations.

The platform provides different ways of presenting data: map view, trend view, and table view with advanced filters. It also shows macro and micro-level information on each monitored disease.


The SARTHI project is lending the Indian government a hand in its national disease surveillance efforts. Funded through the CSR project of Siemens Healthineers India, the initiative lays the foundation for creating a model for predicting disease outbreaks. 

It started upon the realisation of a “significant” volume of non-personal data available via online open-source platforms, which can be used as disease indicators. “Employing user-generated data available in the public domain, focused analysis, and accurate predictions can be made to avert disease outbreaks in the country,” the IET said.


India’s $78 million national disease surveillance programme currently runs on decentralised lab data. The IET noted that the programme still has a potential for improvement through real-time monitoring and disease outbreak predictions. 

Last year, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched an upgraded version of the Integrated Health Information Platform, which now provides consolidated, real-time data from public and private health facilities. It can also track 33 diseases today from the previous 18. 


“Through this project, we are hoping to aid the government of India in its disease prevention and control efforts. The project has potential for nationwide application, and it also helps India in achieving [its] Sustainable Development Goals of Good Health and Well-being and Reduced Inequalities,” Shekhar Sanyal, director and country head of IET India, said.

The SARTHI prototype is just the beginning, said Dr Vikram Venkateswaran of the Healthcare Working Group at the IET Future Tech Panel. He said the partnership will also develop a predictive model that will help the country “proactively move healthcare resources and infrastructure to meet disease outbreak.”

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