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Schiff, international team develop tool to help mitigate COVID-19 in Africa

Dr. Steven Schiff, Brush Chair Professor of Engineering at Penn State and professor neurosurgery at Penn State College of Medicine, was part of a multi-country collaboration to develop a surveillance modeling tool that provides a weekly projection of expected COVID-19 cases in African countries. The model is based on current case data, population, economic status, current mitigation efforts and meteorological sensing from satellites. Uganda’s National Planning Authority helped develop the model, which is openly available to provide a projection of cases, as well as lower and upper ranges to help countries decide if mitigation policies need to be implemented or modified.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we had this unusual team of scientists hard at work on implementing predictive, personalized public health in Africa, and we thought that we had much we could contribute toward the fight against this new virus,” said Schiff, who founded Penn State’s Center for Neural Engineering.

The research team includes Dr. Paddy Ssentongo, assistant professor of engineering science and mechanics. Ssentongo is originally from Uganda, where he earned a medical degree before moving to Penn State College of Medicine to complete a master of public health and a doctorate in epidemiology. He graduated this year.

“The pandemic has shown us that we need to put more emphasis on global public health —especially in places with fragile health care systems, including many countries in Africa,” Ssentongo said. “If we wait for people to get sick, we’re already losing. The best thing we can do is prevention.”

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Read more about the model in a manuscript published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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